Many people will have heard the name 'Patrick O'Connell,' but few outside of football know his story.BOOK TICKETS
Many people will have heard the name 'Patrick O'Connell,' but few outside of football know his story.
O'Connell is a footballing figure of near mythical proportions. He is a figure who, through various accounts of his time coaching Barcelona, has acquired a kind of exalted status.
The Westmeath-born man is often credited with 'saving Barcelona.' After a playing career which included spells with Belfast Celtic and Hull City before going on to captain Manchester United, O'Connell became a manager in 1921.
His first job was in charge of Ashington in Northumberland before making the move to northern Spain and Racing Santander. After seven years there, he moved on to Real Oviedo, then Real Betis, where he oversaw Los Verdiblancos' first league title triumph in 1935.
In 1935, he moved to Barcelona, where his legend was forged. O'Connell is often credited with 'saving Barcelona' during his five-year stint in charge at the Camp Nou. Some accounts will tell you that such an assertion is exaggerated. While the First World War had effectively ended his time as a United player, it was the onset of the Spanish Civil War that plunged his professional life into disarray in 1936.
When the conflict exploded - Barcelona president Josep Sunyol, a left-wing Catalan activist, was killed by pro-Franco forces - O'Connell was holidaying back in Ireland. Upon receiving word about the chaos in Spain, he decided to move back when he easily could have stayed in Ireland. It was then that O'Connell was involved in the Barcelona side's tour of Mexico of New York, organised in order to raise money for the club as conflict gripped the nation.
O'Connell left Barcelona in 1940. Just 19 years later, he was dead. For many years, his name was consigned to history. Then the Patrick O'Connell Memorial Fund was founded in August 2014. Their aim was to raise money to repair the unmarked grave and "resurrect the legacy of one of Ireland's forgotten football heroes."
Now, a new feature-length film will offer the most comprehensive account of O'Connell to date, while also tracing the Memorial Fund's efforts to raise awareness of his achievements in football.
The project is directed by Michael Andersen and follows a quartet of football fans' (Fergus Dowd, Alan McLean, Simon Needham and Maureen O'Sullivan TD Dublin) determined efforts to honour O'Connell's legacy. Indeed, the group has been central to the marking of O'Connell's grave in St. Mary's Cemetery in London, a commemorative plaque being put up in Dublin and his induction into the Barcelona Hall of Fame in 2015.
Don Patricio follows the group's adventures as they present a painting of O'Connell to Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu and retrace the club's tour of Mexico under O'Connell's management. Contributions to the film include Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and former Manchester United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Harry Gregg.