Irish League football to return to West Belfast?

After an absence of 50 years, local football could be returning to west Belfast after First Division side, Donegal Celtic, claimed a play-off spot at the weekend.

The prospect of the club’s promotion has revived memories of the great Belfast Celtic team, which captured the hearts of the local football enthusiasts from the late 19th century up to the 1940s, when the club departed the local football scene after players were attacked following a tense match with city rivals, Linfield. There is no doubt but that the removal of one of the two great footballing sides of Belfast in the 1940s did tremendous damage to the local game, with many arguing that it has never recovered. Could the return of top flight local football to west Belfast be the shot in the arm the local game needs?

  • james andrews

    Great news hope they get up at the expense of stute.

  • joinedupthinking

    I hope they manage it. Not only will it be a welcome shot in the arm to local football, this club have overcome major difficulties to get to this position.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I remember Donegal Celtic, the football team who were ordered by the IRA not to play a game with the RUC. Hopefully the game will not be subject to the same kind of interference from paramilitary warlords this time around.

  • Crow

    Do we really need Old Firm style rivalry in Belfast at this juncture? Now I know people will say that this rivalry/tension/sectarianism is already present (and then some) but will creating the opportunity to channel it on a weekly basis through two soccer teams really be a healthy thing?

  • Fidel O’toole

    What will happen to all the so called Cliftonville “supporters”? Will all these bigots have to change alliances? Mind you it will be cost cutting, the same jersey will do for all ocassions, when they are Scots one day, and Irish the next.

  • Cahal

    Fidel, you could have made a good point. Instead you just sounded like a twat.
    Best of luck to the team.

  • The Devil

    Well at least 11 tossers in West Belfast will have a reason for wearing a tracksuit.

  • Chris Donnelly


    Whilst I understand your sentiment, I don’t think the answer lies in begrudging the success of Donegal Celtic.

    I happen to think it would present Irish football with an opportunity to finally take a firm line against bigotry in local soccer once and for all.

    Part of the problem in Scottish football is that it is a two-team league (with apologies to the one season wonders of Hearts.) Because of this, the sectarian rivalry between Celtic and Rangers becomes ever more intense as, for the past 21 years at least, one of the two teams will always come out on top each season.

    The answer for Irish football is, in my opinion, two-fold: remove the sectarianism by taking a firm stance against sectarian chants and drinking on the terracing; secondly, move away from the goldfish bowl that is the northern Premier League and towards an all-Ireland set up, in which the navel gazing sectarian element in Belfast will realise there is no stomach for the antics in the wider stage.

    The Setanta Cup set-up has shown the way for Irish teams, north and south. Whilst southern teams are undoubtedly ahead of the pack- with many turning professional in recent years and attracting crowds regularly that only Linfield could match- and live television broadcasts- I’ve no doubt that the likes of Linfield, Glentoran and one or two other outfits in the north would not be long in adapting and more than meeting the challenge of a bigger structure.

    Whilst this may take a number of years, I believe the aspirations of clubs like Linfield and Glentoran will ultimately not be satisfied in the medium term by the continuation of the Carnegie League.

    Donegal Celtic, if they play their cards right, have massive potential to tap into a residual support base in west Belfast which Cliftonville- as a north Belfast side- never really managed to do.

    They will face considerable hurdles- for instance, they need to relocate and quickly, for the Suffolk Road venue can never meet their structural needs as it is bordered by a forest, main road and housing on all sides and therefore can not be the location for a proper stadium, or even one that could meet any more than the minimal demands of the Irish League/ UEFA.

    But this club has faced considerable obstacles in the past and come through unscathed to this exciting stage in its history.

  • CS Parnell

    Seems to me this is a good moment to raise the hackneyed old question of Irish League/League of Ireland integration. If the peace funds had been spent on making that happen – subsidising somebody’s TV deal or whatever – that would have had a more lasting impact than some of the stuff they’ve been spent on.

    Let’s face it, all true Rangers (and Celtic) supporters will understand – both teams are desperate to escape from the SPL for financial reasons – so maybe the boys at Windsor should take a leaf out of the book of the bhoys at Parkhead.

    Given that the argument in Glasgow is *how* to stamp out sectarianism and not about whether they need to, even the deep-dyed Linfield can be reformed and speaking personally the world has enough ejits chanting IRA bollocks without the need to hear it at a football game.

    Come on – I am not suggesting we have integrated “national” teams – just the leagues. What rational reason can there be against that – the IL is dying and this could be the last hope for soccer in the North.

  • CS Parnell

    By the way, I remember getting very drunk in the Dongal Celtic bar when most people thought it was a drinking club with a bit of football on the side. (More than 20 years ago now) Good luck to them, they deserve it for all the trouble they’ve had.

  • james andrews

    Couldnt agree more cs parnell,D.Celtic have great bar facilities and are a really friendly bunch of people as well with the warm reception they gave us.
    Any true irish league fan would welcome them into the premier league best of luck with the play off.!

  • Michael Shilliday

    The Sinn Fein school of every problem ever – the only solution is an all Ireland one.

  • gilbert jeannon

    Looking forward to the derby matches with the Belfast Reds. Though I do hope that one day soon both teams will join an all Ireland league and then we’ll not have the dinosaurs of the IFA holding back local soccer, with their pro-Linfield bias.

    Best of luck to Donegal Celtic and lets not forget the best season for Cliftonville since they won the league.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    CROW: “Do we really need Old Firm style rivalry in Belfast at this juncture? Now I know people will say that this rivalry/tension/sectarianism is already present (and then some) but will creating the opportunity to channel it on a weekly basis through two soccer teams really be a healthy thing? ”

    Beats the hell out of at least some of the alternatives, like throwing paving stones and petrol bombs…

  • Crow

    “Beats the hell out of at least some of the alternatives, like throwing paving stones and petrol bombs… “

    That in fact was my point, that these types of rivalry rarely stay on the pitch.

  • paddyjoe

    the irish league is shite anyway. who really gives a toss about it. if they were playing in my back garden id close the curtains.

  • elfinto


    I’m curious. Why are you capitalising West? It is an adjective and should not be capitalised. Unless of course you are suggesting that the west of the city is a separate entity from the rest of Belfast – i.e. the bit where the fenians live – but I always thought that was a tactic used by the British and unionist media.


  • Dread Cthulhu

    CROW: “That in fact was my point, that these types of rivalry rarely stay on the pitch. ”

    Contrariwise, on a bad Daturday night or on a march day, we ahve that anyway.

  • GavBelfast

    I’ve noticed this odd trait of capitalising ‘west’, too, while minimalsing ‘N’ in other scenarios. Curious.

    I hope the footballing authorities are fair and generous to Donegal Celtic vis-a-vis and I hope those with ‘clout’ in the clubs hinterland are also fair and generous if cup draws lead, in future, to awkward fixtures for Donegal Celtic.


    On a practical level, I don’t see an all-Ireland league emerging anytime soon – the bulk of the local teams here couldn’t afford the logistical costs.

  • Chris Donnelly


    You are reading too much into it. I would’ve capitalised South/ North or East as well- think it’s something to do with looking at Belfast’s election constituencies earlier in the day (that’s my excuse anyway….)

    Now, Elfinto, If I begin to refer to ‘the Ardoyne’ then you truly will have a point!

  • Ahh good luck to them if they go up. I’d rather see Institute back with the mighty Crues in the premier league where they belong next year.

    My main hope is just that if DC go up then fans of Linfield (and other clubs to be fair) don’t show themselves and the league up. I’d be a bit worried tbh, but who knows, maybe they’ll surprise me – it wouldn’t be the first time.

  • Doctor Who

    I´m Curious

    Are the handfull of positive posts so far the supporters club.

    Are the many to follow even going to bother to watch them play…apart from the big sectarian games.

  • Doctor Who

    I think Glenavon will go down

  • CS Parnell

    GavBelfast, is that really the case though? Surely the additional money that would flow from an all-island league would make this feasible? I admit that the island doesn’t have the sort of Raod network that makes a Cork- Derry journey an easy thing to do before a 3pm kickoff, but presumably those based at the Brandywell have to contemplate this all the time?

    This is about money as much as anything else. But I admit, I am Irish and proud and I love it when Ireland beat England (or anybody else) at rugby. Do any of the unionists here feel threatened by an all-island rugby team (or even a 9 county provincial side)? I doubt it (though I’m happy to listen to counter arguments).

    Ireland was one of the founding countries of association football, our team should be in the world cup – and if we’d had an all-island team it provbably would be. After all the North beat the English, and I have to say I think England will get to the semis at least.

  • GavBelfast

    CS Parnell, I’m sure if the FAI wanted to come back into the fold, the IFA would be generous in their response – I would hope so, anyway.


    As things stand, I reckon that Linfield, Glentoran, Portadown and perhaps one other from the rump could afford to compete on this basis.

    But it is a non-starter – there are two associations, so there are two leagues. One league would also mean fewer teams could qualify for Europe.

    Let’s see how the all-Ireland cup evolves – if it becomes more succesful, then we’ll see what happens.

  • keith

    crusaders won the league against donegal celtic and the fans were perfectly civil, they clapped our fans as we walked out. It was alot better than i had expected.

    all the best to them, i hope they get up and mix things up a little.

  • Zizniny

    I hope that Celtic go up – I really hate Stute.

    A Bangor fan and I (a Ballymena fan) were up at DCSC after the Bangor vs. Linfield semi final and were very warmly treated by fans and players. The Social Club will immediately be the best in the IPL if they get up.

    Undoubtedly their fixtures will attract a fair number of idiots in the short term, but I’m sure that would die down in time and DCFC can become an asset to the Irish League.