Patrick O’Connell is not a household name when it comes to Irish football, but it should be.
A footballer who grew up across the road from Croke Park, the Dubliner was the first Irishman to captain Manchester United, joining the Red Devils for a then record fee of £1000. But that’s not even the most interesting part of O’Connell’s story.
Listen to the full story here on the latest Nostalgia Ultras podcast:
A committed socialist, O’Connell was running guns for the 1916 Easter Rising while he worked in a munitions factory in England. Conflict would be a familiar feature of his time in football, especially when he was manager of FC Barcelona as the Spanish Civil War broke. He is widely credited with saving the famous club from extinction by bringing the team on a tour of Mexico to raise much needed funds.
In between he was a hugely successful manager at a number of different clubs, including Racing Santander, Real Oviedo and Sevilla. But his greatest triumph was capturing the La Liga title with Real Betis in 1935. To this day it is Los Verdiblancos only league win and he is fondly remembered at the club for guiding them to the top that season, earning the moniker ‘Don Patricio’.
Sadly, Patrick O’Connell died destitute in London in 1959. He couldn’t find work upon returning to the English capital, where no one knew of his successes in Spain. It would stay that way for decades.
Now a film has been made to remember his legacy.
We spoke to Fergus Dowd of the Patrick O’Connell Memorial Fund on the podcast in anticipation of the documentary, Don Patricio. You can listen to it on Android or iTunes.