Celtic’s Iron Man Dies
Above, you can see a fictional character. Marvel Comics’ “Iron Man” is a superhero who created a suit of armour which makes him all but invincible, allowing him to save the day time and time again from the pages of dusty old books to the high definition spectaculars of modern cinema. Having made his first appearance in 1963, anyone with an interest in the world of comic books will have no doubt heard of “Iron Man” and, having made his first appearance over a decade earlier, anyone with an interest in Celtic Football Club will know the name of Sean Fallon.
However, whilst Marvel’s “Iron Man” is a wholly fictional character, Celtic’s “Iron Man” was most certainly not. Born in 1922, in County Sligo, Ireland, he was around long before the red suited figure you see above. An able swimmer and talented Gaelic footballer in his youth, Sean didn’t require a suit of armour to play sport, because, in truth, he was built like one. With an incredible pain threshold, and an instinctive will to win, he once injured his collarbone whilst playing for Celtic, and despite the agony coursing through his body, he allowed his arm to be placed in a sling and continued playing to the final whistle, before finding out later that night he had suffered a rather nasty fracture.
Before his £5,000 move to Glasgow in March 1950, Sean featured for St Mary’s Juniors, McArthurs, Sligo Distillery, Sligo Rovers, and Glenavon in Ireland. He made his Celtic debut in a 2-2 away draw with Clyde in April, and within minutes of Willie Fernie giving the Hoops the lead, Fallon had his name on the score sheet too, albeit at the wrong end. As the home side took the lead with moments remaining, it looked as if Sean was about to taste his first defeat as a Celtic player, until Charlie Tully popped up with almost the last kick of the game to give the Celt’s a point.
A year later, Celtic beat Motherwell 1-0 to win the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1937, giving the long suffering Celtic supporters something to cheer at last. Within another year, Sean was named Club Captain, and he remains one of only three non-Scots (Bertie Peacock and Neil Lennon being the other two) to hold the prestigious title. He soon handed the position of Vice-Captain to one Jock Stein, earning the newcomer respect within the dressing room and cementing Stein’s long term friendship with Fallon. In 1953-54, Celtic, won the Scottish League Championship and the Scottish Cup, with Sean scoring the winner in front of packed Hampden Park.
And then, in 1957, Celtic ran out against Rangers in the final of the Scottish League Cup. Having won the trophy for the first time only the previous season, the Hoops were keen to retain their trophy, and as you all know they did it with some style, recording the largest cup final defeat ever seen in British Football. Although the famous song “Oh Hampden In The Sun” doesn’t mention Sean by name, unlike the Celtic goalscorers that day, it is clear that he played an integral part in that famous victory in the south side of Glasgow.
Sean’s playing career was ended in 1958 by the accumulative wear and tear of injuries over many years. One straw broke the camel’s back proverbially, and Sean was finished, having played over two hundred and fifty times for the Celts, chipping in with fourteen goals and making eight appearances for his country. However, this was not to be the end of Sean Fallon’s Celtic story – far from it in fact!
In 1965, Fallon was appointed as Jock Stein’s assistant manager at Celtic Park, and would go on, once again, to play an integral role in the success of the Football Club he loved so dearly. When Jock Stein was seriously injured in a car crash in the mid 1970’s, Sean took over as caretaker manager for a time, before he became the Club’s head of scouting later in the decade. During this period, Sean secured the signatures of several future Celtic stars, including Kenny Dalglish, Danny McGrain, and Packie Bonner.
Sean was last employed by Celtic Football Club in 1978, but was a regular around the ground in the decades to follow. He died in the early hours of today, the 18th January, 2013, having unfurled the Scottish Premier League flag at Celtic Park in August. Undoubtedly, he will be missed massively by all of the vast Celtic support, but at times like these we should also remember those who will miss him most, his family and friends.
Throughout this article, you can find pictures of a true “Iron Man”. The green and white Hoops of Celtic worn by Sean Fallon are just as recognisable around the world as the red and gold of Marvel’s creation, and I know who I would have fancied to win an imaginary fight between the two.
And so, as we say goodbye to our hero, we can all take some comfort at least from the fact his legend will never die.
Rest in peace Mr Fallon.