Scroll down for the 2018 Celtics season recap!
Who are the Celtics?
The men's team has been in existence since 1976, but Gaelic football has been played in Pittsburgh since the 1940s. After 25 years of competing in the Midwest Division against the Detroit Wolfetones, Cleveland St Pats, and Cleveland St Jarlaths, the Celtics captured their first Midwest Division Title in 2002. Since then, the Celtics have won Midwest Titles in 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2013. In 2011, the Celtics won their first ever North American National Championship, a Junior B Title, in San Francisco, CA. In 2012, the Celtics followed up their historic Junior B National Title by winning the Junior A North American National Championship in Philadelphia, PA. And in 2013, the Celtics once again made history as they competed, for the first time in club history, at the Intermediate Level of the National Championships against Vancouver in Cleveland, OH. The Celtic's went on to win the Mid-west Championship in 2015 and 2017 and Compete in the Philadelphia Senior division in 2016. The tradition continues while the celtics look poised for another strong season in 2018.
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Celtics 2018 Season Recap
Much like the city of Pittsburgh itself, there were many peaks and valleys in the story of the 2018 Pittsburgh Celtics. The year began with the devastating news that our founder, Thomas V. Cloonan, had passed away. Tommy was a beloved husband, father, grandfather and a club man through and through. He’d come to the early season training sessions to see the new crop of Celtics and stop by throughout the summer to make sure the team was moving in the right direction. TC was always there on gameday to cheer on his beloved team, offering words of wisdom, advice, congratulations and solace to the players after the match. The Celtics were Tommy’s parish team in the States, and we were proud to have him as the head of our parish.
With a moment of silence, the Celtics season started in Mid May with friendly matches against division rivals Cleveland and Columbus. The boys from Ohio were no match for a Celtics team playing with more emotion than could be reasonably expected for a preseason scrimmage. The men in maroon had been working on their fitness since early January at Pure Edge Fitness, and it showed. There was no stopping the Celtics on that day as they dominated Cleveland 3-20 (29) to 3 points and followed that in much the same fashion against Columbus, winning 6-11 (29) to 6 points.
The Celtics went right back to playing against their long time Midwest division rival Cleveland St. Pat’s/St. Jarlath’s for their first championship match three weeks later. Having the home field advantage and a full panel allowed Cleveland to keep it competitive through most of the afternoon. Eventually though, the fitness and skill of the Celtics allowed the visitors to pull away late for a 3-11 (20) to 1-8 (11) victory. This also marked the team’s annual bus trip with Banshees. There aren’t really words to describe the bus trips. If you don’t know, you better ask somebody!
Following that hard fought victory, Pittsburgh was able to continue their years long dominance within the division. The Celtics finished the regular season with four more wins... against Detroit 5-16 (31) to 1-8 (11), against Columbus 5-23 (38) to 2-14 (20), at Buffalo 7-25 (46) to 2-3 (9) and at Cincinnati 5-23 (38) to 1-6 (9). It was clear there would be much more needed to prepare this team to reach their goal of a third USGAA national championship.
Luckily for the Celtics, the Midwest division secured the services of a games development officer, Jason Taniane, who traveled throughout the region during the summer. Pittsburgh took full advantage of Jason’s short time in the city with the Celtics, Banshees and Youth team all benefitting tremendously. JT brought a wealth of expertise in football, fitness and preventative maintenance which was very informative for veterans and new players alike. He worked in tandem with the Celtics bainisteoir (head coach/manager) Mike Shovlin to fine tune the tactics that would hopefully lead to another national championship.
The next step on that road to nationals was the Midwest Championship weekend in Buffalo. After winning the division, the Celtics drew the host Buffalo Fenians in the semifinals. Despite traveling over three hours on the morning of the match, the Celtics came out firing and took down the home team by a final score of 7-22 (43) to 2-3 (9). Every healthy player on the Celtics panel was able to get quality playing time and make contributions to the win.
Pittsburgh faced Cincinnati in the final the next day for the chance to lift Midwest Division cup sponsored by Sullivan's Brewing. It was clear from the throw in that the Celtics were the better side, but the gameplan for the men from the Queen City was to defend, defend, defend and keep the ball out of the back of their net. The Celtics controlled play throughout and despite a fast, physical and competitive game, were able to come away with a convincing win, 23 points to 5. This was the Celtics ninth Midwest Championship since they first won in 2002. Now the focus shifted completely to the USGAA Finals in Philadelphia and a chance to win their first national title since back-to-back championships in 2011-2012.
The first match on the weekend was against the Baltimore Bohemians. The men from the Mid-Atlantic offered up a challenging test with a level of skill the Celtics hadn’t faced to that point in the season. It was a close match throughout the first 40 minutes, but as is often the case, the fitness level of the Midwest champions began to shine through as the game wore on. As the Celtics continued ticking the scoreboard by putting ball after ball over the bar, the Bohemians, resigned to their fate, became more and more physical. There were a few dust ups over the final 20 minutes, including one where our Dara Macauley took on seemingly the entire Baltimore back line. He arose none worse for the wear, and the Celtics prevailed by a final score of 2-17 (23) to 1-7 (10).
Next up from the host city was Philadelphia Donegal. There was familiarity between these combatants as the Celtics have traveled to Philly for friendly matches many times in years past. This one would be different, there would be nothing friendly about it. As soon as the ball went up for the throw in it was clear this would be a tightly contested match. The game moved at a methodical pace as the Pennsylvania rivals felt each other out in the opening minutes. The Celtics controlled the flow of play throughout the first half with only a handful of near misses and hit posts stopping them from holding a bigger lead. The backs held firm defensively though as Pittsburgh took a 7 points to 3 lead into the half. Right from the hop in the second half it was clear the momentum had traveled like the turnpike from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. The Donegal lads made a few key substitutions which drastically changed their pace and ball movement. The high balls and breaking balls in the middle of the park were now going against the Celtics as Philly took advantage with 2 goals in short succession to take the lead. The rest of the match was a physical and skilled affair which saw both teams maintain their strong defensive posture. Unfortunately for the men from the Midwest, the tactical substitutions and fresh legs Philly had courtesy of their bye to the semifinals proved too much to overcome. In the end, the Celtics fell 2-11 (17) to 13 points. It was a rough way to end the season, but each man left their best out on the pitch. There was no reason to hang their heads as it was clear from watching the final that the two best teams in the country at the Junior B level squared up in this one.
Following the match, the players consoled each other as the pints started to flow. The pain of defeat soon morphed into a celebration of another great summer. Despite the painful experiences that marked the beginning and end, the Celtics 2018 season was one filled with memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. The journey didn’t lead to the desired destination, but it was one hell of a ride.
2018 Season schedule
May 19: Win vs Cleveland 3-20 to 3 points, Win vs Columbus 6-11 to 6 points
June 9 @ Cleveland - Win 3-11 to 1-8
June 16 vs Detroit - Win 5-16 to 1-6
July 7 vs Columbus - Win 5-23 to 2-14
July 14 @ Buffalo - 7-25 to 2-3
July 28 @ Cincinnati - Win 5-23 to 1-6
August 11 MW: Win vs Buffalo 7-22 to 2-3, Win vs Cincinnati 23 points to 5 points
August 31 vs Baltimore - Win 2-17 to 1-7
September 1 vs Philadelphia - Loss 2-11 to 13 points