Colin Healy's Celtic career: Old Firm mayhem, Super Caley and helping the Hoops to a treble in 2001

Colin Healy's Celtic career: Old Firm mayhem, Super Caley and helping the Hoops to a treble in 2001
Three Celtic goalscorers Colin Healy, Lubomir Moravcik, and Jackie McNamara celebrate past Hearts goalkeeper Antti Niemi in November 2000. Picture: Ben Curtis

IF you want proof of how talented Colin Healy was as a teenager, he was brought on for Celtic against Rangers at the age of 19 in his first season at Parkhead.

It wasn’t a run of the mill encounter either. Indeed it was one of the nastiest battles between the Glasgow sides, with the hosts losing 3-0 to hand the title to their hated rivals.

The clash was marred by fans twice running onto the pitch to abuse referee Hugh Dallas, who was also struck by a coin, and the usual quota of contentious Old Firm decisions and red cards. 

Mayhem in the Old Firm game in May 1999. Picture: Stu Forster/ALLSPORT
Mayhem in the Old Firm game in May 1999. Picture: Stu Forster/ALLSPORT

Still, Ballincollig native Healy was introduced in the 69th minute into what was a pretty poor Hoops line-up but still featured Henrik Larsson and Mark Viduka in attack, Paul Lambert at midfield and Alan Stubbs at the heart of the defence.

He couldn’t turn the tide on his arrival but picked up a yellow card for crunching German midfield powerhouse Jorg Albertz. For Cork-based Celts that was pretty memorable.

Heading across the water after completing the FAS soccer course stood to Healy, he explained in an excellent recent podcast (via the link below) on his career for Cork City, where he now oversees the underage structure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YNe-SiO8Lo

“Going to Celtic at 18 was great but when we went over there I’d good players around me. Liam Miller [RIP], Jim Goodwin, Irish lads who helped settle in quickly. It’s a brilliant club and if Celtic come knocking on the door you don’t say no.

“It was probably the year I had in that FAS course meant I was flying fit when I went to Celtic. Good coaching and the life over there helps as well.

“When I went into the FAS course it was like full-time training because we’d train in the morning and evening and then we went into Wilton at night. We’d running sessions, we used to go up hills, I was really, really fit. Confidence was up and I really started to enjoy it.

“When you’re 15 or 16 you see all these lads go on trial and you think you’re going to get an opportunity and the coaching under Mick Conroy and Paul Bannon helped a lot.”

At Celtic Park in 2000. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
At Celtic Park in 2000. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Shone:

The bulk of Healy’s underage career, like the late Liam Miller, who was just 12 months younger, was with Ballincollig, though he also shone for Wilton United alongside future Cork City players such as Alan Carey and Neal Horgan. 

His Celtic career had its highs and lows.

He played in the 3-1 home loss in 2000 to Inverness that ended John Barnes’ tenure as manager, remember the headline ‘Super Caley Go Ballistic, Celtic Are Atrocious’? 

Yet just over a year later, four days after his 21st birthday in fact, he was electric in the League Cup final as Larsson hit a hat-trick to defeat Kilmarnock.

Chris Sutton celebrates with Henrik Larsson in 2001. Picture: PA Photo
Chris Sutton celebrates with Henrik Larsson in 2001. Picture: PA Photo

Healy was called into the first 11 with Stan Petrov and Alan Thompson unavailable and excelled. While Celtic have dominated the Scottish League across the past nine seasons, exploiting Rangers' financial meltdown, the treble they captured in 2001 bridged a gap to 1969.

The reality in that Martin O’Neill era was the squad was so strong he remained on the fringes and had to go on loan to get regular game-time and nail down a berth in Mick McCarthy’s Ireland squad.

As humble as they come, Healy doesn’t overhype his stint in Glasgow but feels he learned lessons very relevant to the youngsters at the Cross now.

“I didn’t play loads of games. I was in and out and on the bench. The players I trained with was great for my career, the likes of Paul Lambert, Neil Lennon, Henrik Larsson, the way they trained every day was unbelievable.

“I keep saying it to the academy lads, you can’t go through the motions. You’re going out to learn. Henrik Larsson would go out and score a hat-trick on a Saturday and he’s in on a Monday at training and even in possession games he’s giving it.”

Injuries were, of course, a major issue from there on but his stint in Parkhead remains a fascinating period of his career.

Kilmarnock Mark Reilly left and Ian Durrant battle Celtic's Colin Healy in 2000. Picture: David Cheskin
Kilmarnock Mark Reilly left and Ian Durrant battle Celtic's Colin Healy in 2000. Picture: David Cheskin

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