Tributes paid to legendary Celtic and Ireland player

Sat, Jan 19, 2013, 00:00

Tributes have been paid to Seán Fallon, the former Republic of Ireland international who passed away peacefully, aged 90, surrounded by his family in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The Sligo man played eight times for his country, making his debut against Norway in November 1950 and scoring twice, against West Germany and France, in the years that followed, but he will be best remembered for his career at Celtic where he played through the 1950s and then contributed hugely to the great success of the late 1960s and early 1970s when he served as Jock Stein’s right- hand man.

Fallon said he began to support the Glasgow club because his father had taken to going to see them while recovering in the city from wounds sustained in the first World War.

In the end, when offered a choice between moving to Celtic or West Brom after impressing with Sligo Rovers and Glenavon, he opted for the Scots despite having to settle for a lot less money.

Having made his debut towards the end of the 1949/50 season, he quickly established himself as a key member of the team and was appointed captain. He, in turn, made Stein his vice-captain, in part because he wanted to improve the stature of his friend who was considered by some of the younger players to be over the hill at 29. Fallon had, in fact, lied about his own age, claiming to be 24 rather than 28 and was, unbeknownst to his team-mates or manager, almost the same age as Stein.

The Scot succeeded him as skipper when Fallon was sidelined by injury in 1952, but Fallon played more than 250 games, winning a double, another Scottish Cup and two League Cups before his retirement in 1958.

When Stein became Celtic manager in 1965, he asked Fallon to be his assistant and the partnership delivered nine league titles, seven Scottish Cups, six League Cups and, of course, the European triumph of 1967. One of the Irish man’s key roles was recruitment and he is credited with talking many of the club’s greatest players into signing up.

He was, he admitted, “hurt deep in my heart” when he was later demoted by Stein to the position of chief scout but he accepted the job because, he said, of his great love for the club and the pair’s friendship endured until the Scot’s sudden death in 1985.

By then, Fallon had had a brief spell in charge of Dumbarton but his association with Celtic remained close right up until his passing with the former left-back and sometime striker back at the club last year both to unveil the championship flag at the start of this season and to celebrate his 90th birthday with members of the Lisbon Lions.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell and the FAI’s John Delaney were among those to pay tribute yesterday while the club’s current manager, Neil Lennon, observed: “He did everything you could ever wish to achieve in football, as a player for both club and country, while he went on to even greater things in management alongside Jock Stein. For these things, the Celtic supporters have always loved Seán and recognised him as one of our own because it was always his great love of Celtic which shone through.”

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