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Sean Fallon

Celtic legend;

Born: July 31, 1922; Died: January 18, 2013.

SEAN Fallon, who has died aged 90, truly deserves the accolade "Celtic legend". Not even Fallon himself would put his name forward for inclusion in any greatest Celtic XI, but if you were to list those men who had given the most to the club, Fallon would probably be at the top.

As player, coach, assistant manager, acting manager and chief scout, the Iron Man served the club loyally and with dignity, then, when his time came to step back from daily duties, he continued to be a supporter.

Growing-up in Sligo, he excelled as an open water swimmer, captaining the Sligo Town Swimming Club. He also excelled at Gaelic football and football. However, his displays for St Mary's Juniors attracted the attention of the GAA "vigilantes" who didn't want Irish boys playing the British form of the game and Fallon's burgeoning Gaelic football career with the Craobh Ruadh club was abruptly terminated.

Concentrating on football, he played for McArthur's, Sligo Distillery and Longford. Then in 1947 he joined the senior League of Ireland team Sligo Rovers, from there he went over the border to Irish League club Glenavon.

Fallon was already a confirmed Celtic fan, since the day Joe McMenemy, son of Celtic legend Jimmy, saved Sean's sister Lilly from drowning in Lough Gill. Joe reciprocated the heart-felt thanks of Sean and his family by sending Sean a Celtic jersey and a copy of Willie Maley's book The Story of Celtic.

In 1949, after a stand-out performance for the Irish League XI against their League of Ireland counterparts, he was signed by the Glasgow club, making his debut at right back in a 2-2 draw with Clyde, at Shawfield, on May 15, 1950. He was 27 years old.

The following season he established himself as a Celtic regular and made the first of his eight international appearances for the Republic of Ireland, when he played outside left in a 2-2 Dalymount Park draw with Norway, on November 26, 1950.

At the end of that season he was a member of the Celtic team which beat Motherwell 1-0 to win the Scottish Cup at Hampden.

In 1952 he succeeded John McPhail as club captain, a job he held until injury deprived him of it, and while captain he made a gesture that was to have far-reaching consequences for the club and himself.

Celtic were struggling, they had a lot of good young players but lacked experience, while some players, particularly the maverick genius Charlie Tully, were ill-disciplined. The club brought veteran centre-half Jock Stein back from Welsh non-league club Llanelly, as an "old head" in the reserves and occasional first team stop-gap.

Tully allegedly ridiculed Stein's signing, saying he was too old, so Fallon, five months older than Stein, offered the newcomer his support and the Celtic vice-captaincy, and when injury to Alec Boden handed Stein the first team centre-half's spot, then Fallon too was hurt, Stein found himself Celtic captain.

Injury kept Fallon out of the historic Coronation Cup win in 1953 but the following season, as Celtic emerged from the doldrums with a League and a Cup double, Fallon played his part, never more so than by scoring the winner in the Scottish Cup final win over Aberdeen.

Injury denied Stein a part in the legendary 7-1 "Hampden in the sun" League Cup final win over Rangers in 1957, but Fallon was there, in his final first-team hurrah for the club. Injury and time had caught up with him but, like Stein, he moved seamlessly from Celtic player to Celtic coach, as he and Stein put together what would become the backbone of the Lisbon Lions squad and the Quality Street Kids.

Stein left for Dunfermline, then Hibernian, but Fallon remained in the background at Celtic Park, and when Stein returned as manager in 1965 his first task was to repay Fallon's gesture of more than a decade before and ask the Sligo man to be his assistant.

As Stein frequently admitted, Fallon had an unerring eye for a player and if Fallon had doubts about a potential signing, Stein didn't complete the deal. He was at Stein's side through the glory days of Lisbon and beyond, seldom interviewed or lauded but immensely valued by his boss.

The final active years of the Stein/Fallon partnership saw Fallon in a new role, as chief scout, where he continued to recruit a string of promising young players to Parkhead.

He did, in retirement, have a short spell as a Dumbarton manager and director but his heart was always at Celtic Park. He put in countless hours for the club, as player, coach, scout, spy and ambassador. He did this gladly because he loved the club.

Fallon is fondly remembered by Celtic fans as a dedicated Robin to Stein's Batman. They rose as one to salute him as, four days past his 90th birthday, he unfurled the League Championship flag in August, 2012.

Surely his greatest contribution to Celtic, greater even than his 14 goals, including the 1954 Scottish Cup winner, his 266 games and all his years of selfless service, was as a talent spotter.

He is survived by his wife, Myra, their children Marie-Therese, Louise, Collette, Siobhan, Sean and Sinead and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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