Connacht Cup medals from 1947 and 1948. PHOTO: MICHAEL DONNELLY

Castlebar Celtic dream of ‘The Tenth’ ahead of Sunday's provincial final

SUPPORTERS of Mayo’s most successful club (in provincial terms, at least), Castlebar Celtic, have had their dreams of 'The Tenth' reignited this year.

In Celtic's case it's the dream of a 10th Connacht Junior Cup – the top trophy in junior football in the province.

Celtic are joint top of the roll of honour with Galway Bohs so a win on Sunday against Athenry in this year's final would leave the Mayo club as the most successful in the province.

It all started on June 29, 1947, when Celtic defeated Galway Rovers, Eddie Quigley scoring the only goal of the game after a quarter of an hour. They had to withstand the loss of goalkeeper Sean Boyle midway through the first half when he picked up an injury stopping what seemed a certain goal.

It was era before substitutions so Celtic had to reshuffle. Peter Walsh went into goal and the Mayo side held on, despite coming under severe pressure towards the end and having a second goal near the end by Mickie Guthrie disallowed.

The second title arrived in 1955/56 when Celtic won 3-2 against Galway Bohs in Galway, which wasn’t always a happy hunting ground for Castlebar teams in those days.

But it marked the start of a golden era on the provincial circuit, being the first of four titles captured in eight year.

The second of those four – and the third in total – arrived on June 15, 1959, when Celtic defeated Sligo Collegians by two goals to one, Peter Duke and Niall McCarron the scorers – though it was claimed by the referee that Patsy Feeney’s corner had crossed the goal-line before McCarron got a touch for the second goal.

Celtic had to wait just under a year for title number four. They played Our Lady’s Boys Club (OLBC), Galway, on May 29, 1960, and Peter Duke stamped his authority all over the game by scoring all three goals in a 3-0 victory. The previous month, Celtic had become the first Mayo club to play the semi-final of the FAI Junior Cup since its inception in 1923. They lost the game 2-1 to a Pearse Rangers side from Dublin that went on to win the final.


A great Celtic era was book-ended in 1964 when they beat great rivals Westport United in that year’s Connacht Cup final.

Westport had won the Mayo League title but Celtic put in fabulous display to win the provincial crown by five goals to two, Niall McCarron with three of the goals.

Legendary Celtic centre-half Josie Feeney responded to the win with the following statement: “Of the three Connacht Cup medals I won, I will always remember the 1964 final with special pride. Westport came with a big reputation that day. They had taken their previous opponents by storm. But we crushed them without fuss.” Sadly, Josie is no longer with us.

Celtic had to wait until 1979/80 to win the next Connacht Cup title with a 3-2 victory over Galway city side Mervue United in what was arguably their most remarkable campaign.

They had been knocked out in an early round by Athenry (this year's final opponents) but were reinstated by the Connacht FA when it was discovered that the Galway club, one of a number from the county, had not been properly affiliated. Athenry made a successful appeal and the game was replayed, with Celtic emerging victorious in the second match.

Terryland Park in Galway was the venue for the final on June 15, Mervue United being Celtic’s final opponents.

The Mayo side were 2-0 up by the midway point of the first half, Fergie McEllin and Eugene Lavelle with the goals, but Mervue made it 2-1 10 minutes into the second half.

Ten minutes later Celtic were 3-1 ahead when Lavelle scored again, and while Mervue scored a second goal on 80 minutes, Celtic maintained their composure in the closing stages to confirm the victory.

The same two clubs met again in the 1984/85 final, and the result was exactly the same.

It was an exceptional Celtic side that would go on to win five league titles in succession, but Mervue put them to the pin of their collar in the provincial decider.

Mervue led twice but Fergus McEllin and Brian Ainsworth scored equalisers and the game was tied at 2-2 by half-time.

Ainsworth set up the winner seven minutes from time when he squared a free kick for Ger Whyte whose powerful shot was deflected to the net by Michael Moran, using his knee!

Before securing their fourth consecutive league title, Celtic had the chance to win back-to-back Connacht Cup titles when they faced Galway Hibs on May 21, 1986.

Hibs took the lead at rain-sodden Terryland Park from the penalty spot but Celtic’s trademark resilience shone through and Brian Ainsworth equalised before the break and Kevin Ryan scored the winner 13 minutes from time following good work by Ger Whyte.

Remarkably, Ryan played in Celtic’s next provincial triumph (their ninth) in 2002/03 – and so did his son Stephen.

Again their final opponents were from Galway, but this time it was in the rather unfashionable shape of Headford club Moyne Villa, appearing in their first – and so far only – Connacht Cup final.

Celtic were clear favourites and lived up the billing, Kevin Ryan putting them ahead before the break and Declan Reilly doubling the advantage midway through the second half.

Villa made Celtic sweat for the final 15 minutes when Niall Egan reduced the deficit to a single goal but despite throwing everything at their opponents until the final whistle, they couldn’t get in for an equaliser.

That's the story of their nine triumphs so far. Will they claim 'The Tenth' on Sunday afternoon?

They're in with a great chance, of that there is no doubt.