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Who was Patrick “Don Patricio” O’Connell?

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A close up of a football ball on a field

Patrick O’Connell was born in Dublin, Ireland, in March 1887. As a child, Patrick developed his tenacious soccer style on Mabel Street in Drumcondra, a working-class neighborhood in the north of the Irish capital. He started his football career with the Liffey Wanderers (Dublin). At age 21, he married his girlfriend, Ellen Treston, who was pregnant with his first child, and landed his first professional contract with Celtic Belfast. After just a year with the northern club, Sheffield Wednesday arrived requesting his signing. Although he was with them for three seasons (1909-1912) he was not very successful. He only played 21 times for the Steel City club. His personal life worsened as a result.

Things improved when he was signed by Hull City (1912-1914) in the second division. Being able to play regularly for Hull, he was selected for the Irish national team. He played a pivotal role in the winning team of the “British Championship” in 1914, with victories against England and Wales and a draw with Scotland. The outbreak of the First World War restricted football activity in Great Britain and Ireland. After an unpleasant event O’Connell found himself involved in, a scandal over a rigged match, he left for Spain, leaving his wife and his four children in England to pursue his career as a man. soccer.

It was in Spain where he had his greatest soccer successes. He was in charge of Racing Club de Santander for 7 years (1922-1929) and won the Cantabrian league 6 times with them. However, he was leading Real Betis Balompié in Seville, the city he arrived in 1932, when he led the Verdiblanco club to win its first and last league title in 1935.

From there he went to Barcelona to take the reins of the Barça club in 1936. Unfortunately for O’Connell, his stay with the Catalan club coincided with the civil war, something that had a negative effect on Spanish football. However, he won the Mediterranean league (it was the only soccer league played in that year) with Barça in 1937. In 1938 he took the team on a tour of Mexico and the United States. The money raised on that tour was enough to ensure Barcelona’s postwar survival. O’Connell is universally considered one of the saviors of that club.

O’Connell was loved by the Spanish football fraternity, and although he returned to coach Real Betis and then Sevilla FC and again Racing Club de Santander, he died in poverty in London in 1959. Today his body lies in a grave without a headstone in London’s St Pancras cemetery.

There are many different opinions about Patrick O’Connell. Some say he was a rogue, others say he was a visionary. However you look at it, however, his extraordinary life deserves to be remembered. This is his story …

Jill Buch

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