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Packie Bonner

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

St. Patrick's Day Festival 2010

"Each year the board of St. Patrick's Festival honours one or more persons for their outstanding achievements and contribution to Irish life with the title of Grand Marshal. This year Packie Bonner follows in the footsteps of a distinguished group of previous Grand Marshal's in accepting the role for the 17th March.

As Grand Marshal Packie will have a wonderfully memorable day on Wednesday, 17th March, kicked off with a VIP breakfast held in Marks & Spencers Rooftop Restaurant on Grafton St., and from there he will be taken to the start of the Parade route at Parnell Square and will travel the 3km route in an open top vehicle welcomed by what is expected to be crowds of over 650,000.

Packie Bonner has been one of the finest contributors to Irish sporting history and is one of the country's most beloved sporting legends. He is also dedicated to fostering the future of sport in Ireland and in his current role as technical Director for the FAI plays an instrumental role in the development of youth soccer.

Packie Bonner made his international debut on his 21st birthday in 1981 against Poland. He went on to write his name into Irish football history on many occasions over the next 13 years, he became first choice for Ireland winning 80 caps.

A native of Donegal, Bonner started his career with Keadue Rovers and, in 1978, he became Jock Stein's last ever Celtic signing. The following year, he made his first team debut and over the next 12 years, he made the number one jersey at Parkhead his own as he made 642 appearances for the Hoops before retiring in 1996.

Packie won Scottish League Championships, Scottish FA Cups and Scottish League Cups with the Glasgow club while performing with distinction for his country following his first cap against Poland in 1981.He is best remembered for his penalty save from Daniel Timofte at the 1990 World Cup, which, along with David O'Leary's successful strike, earned Ireland a place in the quarterfinals.

In 2003, Bonner was named as the Technical Director and Goalkeeping Coach for the Football Association of Ireland. In addition, he has more recently, made a career as a football presenter with TV3 Ireland.

"As an international spectacle and as an Irishman I am very honoured to be invited to lead this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade. I hope that I can do the role justice like some of the greats who have gone before me. It had always been a great day and a great occasion for Ireland and this year I am sure it will be no different," said Packie Bonner today commenting on his appointment as Grand Marshal of St. Patrick's Festival Parade.

"The role of Parade Grand Marshal is given each year to an inspiring Irish Person or Persons to honour their achievements at home and on the world stage. Packie Bonner is the embodiment of our sporting Irish spirit. In his long career as the Irish International soccer team's goalkeeper and in his current position with the FAI he is a marvellous ambassador for Ireland and Sport and we are delighted he has accepted the role", commented Susan Kirby, CEO St. Patrick's Festival at today's announcement.

The theme of this year's Festival Parade is 'The Extraordinary World' which will be interpreted by the street theatre pageant companies and performers taking part, drawing you into the artistic sensation that transforms the streets of Dublin each year on St. Patrick's Day. The show, which begins at 12pm, is broadcast live on RTE 1 and, including the highlights shown later in the day, attracts over 800,000 viewers.
The St. Patrick's Festival Parade is just one of the many incredible events taking place this year during the six-day national celebrations running from Friday 12th March until Wednesday 17th March.

Celebrating its 15th birthday, St. Patrick's Festival promises the very best in street theatre, an explosive fireworks display, traditional and contemporary Irish music, comedy, visual arts, dance, a treasure hunt, GaelSpraoi Irish language events, and wonderful family fun. Get on board the carousel of fun and make the festival yours! Check out for a full list of events."

How did you feel when you were asked to be Grand Marshal at the St Patrick's Day parade?

I was extremely honoured to be asked. I was apprehensive at the start because I didn't know what it entailed but then I realised the enormity of it in one way. I am representing the whole of Ireland and not everyone is in that position so it was a great honour.

What are your memories of St Patrick's Day?

My memories are in Donegal but I suppose I left when I was 18. The banners were out and it was also the day when you can disrupt lent and you can eat all your sweets and then go up to the parade. It was a great occasion to look forward too and it was great as you got the day off school as well.

When I was away in Glasgow it was different as it wasn't a public holiday and in a way you became more Irish. You were able to celebrate it and become proud of it. I was the only Irish guy in the club at a time.

I made my debut for Celtic it was on Paddy's Day 1979. It was my first professional game ever in the follow up in Glasgow. 31 years ago - I feel very old now.

You have had a hugely successful career - what has been your highlight?

I suppose the highlight was that I lasted so long at a professional game - 19 years at Celtic with over 600 appearances. That was a great achievement and then I achieved 80 caps for Ireland. People always say to me it must have been the penalty save which was wonderful for the country but my own personal achievement was when we beat England in the European championships in '88 in the first ever competitive game on an international stage and I think us playing well in the game was a major, major achievement.

How many times did you captain Celtic?

I wouldn't have captained them too many a times I'd say a couple but I captained Ireland once against Lichtenstein. I was very proud that day to be able to do that.

You were a member of Jackie's army - what was Jack like as a manager?

He was a great man, a fantastic man, a very proud man, a very confident man and he portrayed that confidence across to us and gave us responsibility which is a big thing in leadership. He delegated those caps to us and himself and Kevin were geared towards making sure that everything defensively was in position and organised. He delegated that responsibility and we all made sure we were organised. We were a bit older that time and we were able to take on that responsibility but he was very confident with his approach.

He created a great real team spirit among the group.

You also met the Pope and he knew who you were.

When we met him - I had done ok in the game previously so that might have been in his mind as to who I was. He had an interest as he was a goalkeeper himself. It was a lovely occasion for the gang to meet the Pope.

I was speaking to Ray Houghton recently and he said he misses playing - do you?

I think it's difficult to watch the game from the stand. Especially now as a technical director there's so much riding on it. The budget and what we are doing on the ground - and the enormous amount of work we are doing on the ground and we want to grow that and every time there is a game now and especially in the current climate you are obviously wanting the guys to win.

There's actually much more pressure when you are sitting in the stands as at least if you were playing you could actually make things happen. You could actually go out there and influence its direction. You can't do that now and you are actually playing every shot and every save without being ever able to have an influence on it.

What current players on the Irish team or international do you really admire?

I think the team has come of age. I think once they qualify for something their confidence will grow. I admire the guys because they turn up every week and every single game. Especially during the period where they weren't doing so well it was very easy for them to say no as they were being paid loads and loads of money. They don't have to come over if they don't wish but they come over and have great passion.

Robbie, Damien, Richard have all been around for awhile. Damien who has had a lot of injuries could have said no but he hasn't. Another fantastic person, a great guy and someone who is coming to the end of it is Kevin Kilbane. He now has over 100 caps. He is a great guy to be around and I admire how he has gone about his business. The younger guys all can learn from that.

If you had to pick one player in the whole world past or present who would it be?

I am biased so I always turn towards Pat Jennings - he was a role model for me. I also loved Pele and I met him last year and he was a very humble man and had a great affect on people. I was lucky I worked with George Best too. Sometimes we don't realise when we are in that position that people do look up to you and we have to project the right image.

Sport is vital during a recession to boost morale - do you agree?

Sport is a fantastic way of getting rid of all that pressure and stress. I would have loved for us to qualify as if we had of qualified for the world cup we would have had something positive to look forward to and that's the power of sport.

Your son Andrew followed in your footsteps - did you encourage that?

I was very encouraging to Andrew. He played football from an early age he had an opportunity of representing his country at an underage level which was lovely for him and he has all the jersey's up on the wall at home. He was unfortunate that he might not have been good enough to make it at a high level but he still loves the game and is still coaching. He has a great passion for it.

Everyone wants to know what you thought of that infamous handball?

We were dejected and disappointed. You can get over those moments when you are a professional player but it's the aftermath of it all and it's what happened afterwards I think we were all really disappointed in the way it was worked out. That wasn't good for the game or good for us as a nation. What it has done for us is given real hope that we can compete against the best and the positive thing I can take from that.

The Parade on RTE ONE will start at 12.35pm to 13.35pm.