Chapter One | Belfast Celtic | The team that died

Words By: Benjamin Roberts Produced By: Philippe Fenner
November 15, 2017

After football arrived in Ireland in the late 1870s, existing tensions between the Protestant and Catholic communities found an outlet in football grounds in Belfast and beyond.

In 1886 Linfield Football Club was formed by workers at the Linfield Spinning Mill and became the favourite club of Protestants from the Shankill Road area of the city. Then, five years later another team was born, Belfast Celtic, who fulfilled the same purpose for the people of the Catholic Falls Road district.

By the early twentieth century their rivalry was firmly established and in 1912 they would square off at Belfast Celtic’s ‘Paradise’ ground, fistfights between fans broke out in the stands. Then, incredibly, a gunshot rang out, and then another. Ten thousand Belfast Celtic fans – some waving Sinn Fein flags – and eight thousand Linfield fans were locked in pitched tribal panic. The match was abandoned.

This is the story of how Belfast Celtic, formed in 1891, and in the midst of the sectarian issues in Northern Ireland at the time, found themselves dissolved by 1949.

Belfast Celtic, the team that died.

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