By the time Celtic Football Club got underway – in season 1888/89 – Cowlairs FC, a team from the district of Springburn in the north of Glasgow, had been in existence for some years.
The sides first met in the Glasgow International Exhibition football tournament on 6th September 1888, the competition being part of the extravaganza of that year, held in Kelvingrove Park. On that occasion, Cowlairs won 2-0 to end Celtic’s participation in the tournament but only 16 days later, in the 2nd round of the Scottish Cup, the Celtic players got their revenge with a resounding 8-0 victory.
The teams met twice more that season, firstly in a friendly at Springburn on 13th April 1889, when Celtic won 1-0; and again on 11th May 1889, in the final of a local competition called the North-Eastern Cup, held at Barrowfield Park in Bridgeton (home of Clyde FC), Celtic winning 6-1 to pick up the club’s first-ever trophy.
CELTIC FC 1888
Two years later, both Celtic and Cowlairs became founder members of the new Scottish League Division One, along with Abercorn, Cambuslang, Dumbarton, Hearts, Rangers, Renton, St Mirren and Third Lanark. This meant the that teams met twice in the league that season of 1890/91 – Celtic winning both, 2-0 (H) and 5-0 (A) – but at the end of the campaign, Cowlairs were placed in bottom spot and were forced to drop out, to be replaced by Clyde. In season 1891/92, the sides were drawn together again in the Scottish Cup, Celtic having beaten St Mirren 4-2 in Paisley in round one and Kilmarnock Athletic 3-0 at Parkhead in round two.
On this day in 1892, a crowd of around 4,000 gathered at Celtic Park for the quarter-final tie. A Celtic win was expected and that is exactly what occurred, goals by Sandy MacMahon, Johnny Madden and Alec Brady giving Celtic a 4-1 victory and putting them into the semi-final, where Rangers were a-waiting.
NB Celtic retained the North-Eastern Cup in season 1889/90, beating Northern 2-0 in the final, again at Barrowfield Park. However, the club, no doubt with bigger competitions in mind, did not take part in the competition again. The North-Eastern Cup is on display in the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park.
NB2 Cowlairs were suspended the following season for breaches of the regulations concerning professionalism. They came back in 1893 and continued for two seasons but the heart had gone out of the club and some of their experienced committeemen had moved elsewhere. By 1895, Cowlairs severed their connection with League and shortly afterwards, the club folded completely