I have detected a certain sneer among people who should know better when the term “Celtic family” is used.
This morning a last minute decision saw me head back to the town of Coatbridge where I spend a lot of my teenage years.
The road was closed off so the taxi driver claimed defeat and I walked the last mile or so to the Old Monklands cemetery.
I have a few of my mother’s side at rest in the same graveyard.
The gathering today was more about pride and commemoration than grief. The man whose grave we gathered round had been at his rest eternal for many years.
Michael Dolan of Coatbridge was the first name ever on a Celtic team sheet.
The goalkeeper is always a special guy in any club.
They are a different breed.
Camus was a goalie.
I rest my case.
Michael Dolan was born to Irish parents, famine refugees.
He was down a coalmine aged 11.
This was the man we had come to honour.
As I type these words the Celtic fans to my right broke into applause for Fraser Forster as he bounded out to start his warm up before the league cup final.
In Michael Dolan’s day the “calf strain” had not been invented.
As we gathered at the entrance to the cemetery I was spotted by another goalie, this time from my hooped up childhood.
John Fallon greeted me with a big embrace and “nailed” me about coming to speak to his CSC.
As we dandered down to Michael’s newly discovered resting pace we joked about my grannie’s cousin “the Grib” and how he was part of the club like no other.
I was born and grew up around from Jimmy Gribben’s house and I was never out of it as a wee fella.
Then it was another Fallon, Sean.
The Sligo man and I swapped some craic about Connacht football-that is the Gaelic variety.
On the way to Hampden Frank Hannaway of the CGS and I were swapping Uddingston stories when it became apparent that his ancestor, a bare knuckled fighter called Murphy might be same man that is my great grandfather.
We didn’t have much time for more amateur genealogy as he had to get dropped off for his supporters’ bus a few yards from the Jimmy Johnstone statue.
I would be delighted if we were related.
At the graveside Jim Craig, the Celtic Grave Society’s patron, referred to Dolan as “a very brave man” as keepers had to be in those days.
I thought of the inner strength of the community that Michael came from.
On this fine morning in Coatbridge after St Patrick’s Day I thought how despite everything the Irish community of Coatbridge had survived.
The formal part of the honouring of Michael’s grave came with a flamboyant oration from Glen Daly’s son Terry Dick.
The CGS main man with the camera drove me to the national stadium.
We are a family, collected around a unique football club, but much much more than that.
I am looking out on 21st century Celtic stars going through their pre-cup final warm up.
However I am thinking of that first goalie and how his heroism was of a different order.