The green machine

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The decor motif is green, and Martin and Eamon Smyth's driving force is the Celtic F.C.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The decor motif is green, and Martin and Eamon Smyth's driving force is the Celtic F.C.
Posted: March 18, 2014

INSTEAD of taking down the shamrock decorations after March 17, Martin Smyth celebrates his heritage all year 'round with the Lennymobile, his Irish flag-covered, emerald-green 1999 Buick LeSabre.

You can find his mobile shrine to the Celtic Football Club outside Old City pub the Plough & the Stars during every game of the season. Inside the Irish pub, you'll hear Smyth cheering his favorite soccer team along with the rest of the 2nd Street Plough Bhoys, Philadelphia's die-hard Celtic F.C. fans.

"In Ireland, we learned soccer in the street," said Smyth, 42. "When I watch my kids play here, it's so regimented. Just kick the ball and play!"

John Devlin, chairman of the 2nd Street Plough Bhoys, met Smyth at a Celtic vs. Madrid preseason exhibition and instantly admired his dedication.

And his ride.

"If he drove that in Ireland, the tires would be slashed," Devlin said. "But I love that he comes to the Plough at 7 a.m. for every game with that unbelievable car."

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the peak of "The Troubles," Smyth and his 10 siblings endured discrimination for their Catholic upbringing. His father was a professional boxer who trained a few of his sons for the squared circle. Smyth preferred to be "a lover, not a fighter."

However, boxing did influence Smyth's decision to come to the United States. "The first time I watched 'Rocky,' I fell in love with the land of opportunity," he said.

Arriving in Phoenixville in 1997, Smyth, who now lives in Malvern, began his pursuit of the American dream by searching for a new career. He'd been a bartender in Ireland, one who didn't and still doesn't drink.

He applied to be a traumatic brain-injury facilitator for ReMed Recovery Care in Paoli because it sounded impressive.

"The interviewer said I didn't have the qualifications," Smyth said. "But I was a bartender for many years, and I've taken home many drunks who fell or got beat up. So she gave me a chance to learn."

Now a certified nursing assistant, Smyth helps those with traumatic brain injuries manage everyday activities like shopping or going to the movies. In return, some of ReMed's patients and residents have inspired design ideas for Smyth's car.

"I just added [a banner that says] 'You'll Never Walk Alone' to the hood of the Lennymobile," Smyth said. "It's Celtic F.C.'s theme song, but it's also a reminder to the patients, especially during March, because it's Brain Injury Awareness Month."

Smyth created the Lennymobile, named after Celtic F.C.'s storied manager and former captain, Neil Lennon, four years ago. The car was purple when he bought it.

"I painted it green because I couldn't drive a purple car," Smyth said. He put a couple of Celtic soccer stickers on the Buick - and kept on going.

He liked the positive reaction it got.

"Mayo Mick" McHugh lives pretty far from Tooreen, Ireland, but seeing the Lennymobile cruise around Malvern makes him feel at home.

"I left my house one morning to get a coffee from Wawa and I see this green car with flags all over it," McHugh said. "I followed the car into the Wawa parking lot, told Martin that it's pretty cool, and then he asked where in Ireland I'm from. We've been friends ever since."

One person not enamored of the Lennymobile is Smyth's wife, Jeanene.

"I try my very best to avoid driving it," she said laughing. "And when I do, I make such an angry face so people don't ask for pictures."

Smyth met Jeanene at a Pentecostal service on St. Patrick's Day and they got married on, yup, St. Patrick's Day 2012. Martin wore a kilt. They've got three kids, ranging in age from 15 to 4.

"Honestly, I have no problem with the Lennymobile," Jeanene said. "I love how proud he is of his heritage, and I'm glad he's imparting that upon our children. It's good to be proud of who you are."

Smyth encourages anyone who wants to book his car for charity functions to check out the Lennymobile's Facebook page. He was planning to drive the car in the Conshohocken and Philadelphia St. Patrick's Day parades over the weekend.

"I don't want money, I don't want nothing," Smyth said. "I just want to spread the joy."

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