It’s not often that two West Belfast business owners face each other in a professional football match, but that's exactly what will happen this Saturday in Glasgow. Fáilte restaurant owner and Aberdeen’s flying winger Niall McGinn will play against Rock Bar owner and Celtic’s tricky winger Paddy McCourt in the much-anticipated opening SPL fixture of the season – Celtic v Aberdeen.
To add to the local feel of the occasion, both players are managed by West Belfast football agent Gerry Carlile, who is also a partner in both businesses.
So while West Belfast’s Celts will be out in force to watch the first clash of the season and show support for the Hoops, many will be quietly hoping that Niall performs well – but not too well, of course.
Speaking exclusively to the Andersonstown News, former Celt Niall said he is looking forward to returning to Parkhead.
“I've really enjoyed my first month at Aberdeen and I've settled in well, scoring two goals in pre-season games,” he said.
“I'm relishing going back to Parkhead for the first game of the season and whilst I had some great times in a Celtic jersey, I'm now an Aberdeen player and it goes without saying I'll be doing everything in my power to win the game for Aberdeen.”
Meanwhile, Paddy told us he's looking forward to the season starting and he hopes Celtic can get off to a flying start with three points.
“It will be nice to see Niall back at Celtic Park but the only thing in my mind will be winning the game and getting the league campaign off to a good start,” he said. “We are the champions and it’s important for us to retain the title and give ourselves a chance of qualifying for the Champions League every season. We know our fans will be expecting big things from us again this year and I know the Irish Celtic supporters are as fervent as any. I'm sure the Rock Bar will be its usual busy self for the game, especially given the close connection both Niall and I have with West Belfast. Aberdeen games are always tough for us but I hope we open our account with a win and it would be nice to go on an early run of victories.”
Away from the players, what do the staff of the Rock and Fáilte think? We had to find out. Fáilte Head Chef Dominic Hanvey wants his boss to do well – but he’s a Celtic man first and foremost.
“This will be Niall’s first competitive game against Celtic,” he said. “I have a few quid on him to score the first goal but Celtic to win by 2 -1. At the end of the day I’m a Celtic supporter and I want Celtic to win.”
Rock Bar Manager Chris McAllister is working on Saturday but will be keeping a close eye on the game.
“Of course I will have a keen interest in the game with Paddy playing,” he said. “I expect it to be busy and we will be unfurling the league flag on the day to get everyone on form for the game. Needless to say, I want Celtic to win,” he added. “The Rock is the number one Celtic bar in Belfast and Paddy is here regularly. Niall comes in too but you have to support your team and it’s Celtic for me!”
The game kicks off at 12.45pm on Saturday and the Rock will be showing the game live on big screens followed by live entertainment through the afternoon and into the evening.