DENIS CONNAGHAN answered a goalkeeping SOS from Jock Stein – only hours after one of the most infamous results in Celtic’s history.
The legendary boss was raging after the Hoops’ 4-1 flop against Partick Thistle in the remarkable League Cup Final at Hampden on the Saturday afternoon of October 23 1971.
Evan Williams unfairly shouldered the bulk of the blame for the totally unexpected collapse and Stein immediately set in motion a move for new shotstopper in the aftermath of the team’s shocker at the national stadium.
The story was revealed by author Alex Gordon in his tribute book, ‘Celtic: The Awakening‘, which was published in 2013.
DENIS THE DEFIANT…Celtic keeper Denis Connaghan dives full-length to thwart Rangers’ Derek Johnstone as Billy McNeill stands guard on the goal-line.
Connaghan, who was St Mirren’s No.1 at the time, recalled: “I had been linked with Celtic a couple of times and I was told that Saturday night that Jock wanted to sign me.
“I thought: ‘I’ve heard it all before.’
“Sure enough, though, on Monday morning the Celtic manager telephoned me, we met at Love Street and the deal was struck. Of course, I was delighted at the time, but it was just a pity that my signing for the club arose from a Cup Final defeat.
“It was well-known that Jock hated goalkeepers. He used to say to me: ‘When I die, Denis, I want to come back as a Celtic goalkeeper. It’s the easiest job on earth.’
“I suppose it was true. Celtic attacked in every game, but in that sort of situation your concentration had to be that bit sharper.”
Connaghan, who won three titles and a Scottish Cup in his six years at Parkhead, sadly passed away yesterday at the age of 79.
THE CUP THAT CHEERS…Billy McNeill and Denis Connaghan with the Scottish Cup after the 3-0 win over Dundee United at Hampden in 1974.
The beanpole netminder actually kicked off his career at the Hoops in 1963, but left a year later. He spent seven years at the Paisley club before his dramatic return to his boyhood idols.
He made his debut three days after signing in a deal worth around £10,000 in a 2-1 league win over Dunfermline at East End Park and made 14 appearances that season as the club clinched their seventh successive championship.
Connaghan competed with Williams and Ally Hunter for the No.1 position. The colourful custodian, famous for his spectacular and agile saves, was in the team that beat Dundee United 3-0 in the Scottish Cup Final in 1974.
The previous week, he had played in the 1-1 draw with Falkirk at Brockville as Stein’s triumphant side sealed their ninth crown in a row.
The affable last line of defence was the Hampden hero when he saved two penalties against Rangers in the 1974 Drybrough Cup final dpot-kick shoot-out after the match had ended in a 2-2 stalemate.
After leaving Celtic, Connaghan had brief spells at Morton and Clyde before joining Junior club Arthurlie in 1980.
All at CQN and our readers send our condolences to Denis’ family and friends at this extremely sad time.