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Belfast's blue plaque tribute to saviour of FC Barcelona Patrick O'Connell

By Adrian Rutherford

An Irishman credited with saving FC Barcelona from financial ruin is to be honoured with a blue plaque.

Patrick O'Connell is the latest recipient of the award from the Ulster History Circle. O'Connell, who was born in Dublin, played for Belfast Celtic. He died in poverty in London in 1959, but his contribution to football continues to be recognised.

A former Manchester United captain, he skippered Ireland to their first British Home Championship. O'Connell is also revered in Spain for his exploits with two La Liga clubs.

When FC Barcelona almost folded in the 1930s, O'Connell, their manager, helped organise a money-spinning tour to Mexico and the US. He also led Seville's Real Betis to their only La Liga title. O'Connell's feats will be marked when he becomes the latest recipient of a blue plaque, to be unveiled at Albert Street in Belfast on Friday by his grandson Mike O'Connell.

Chris Spurr, the chairman of the Ulster History Circle, said: "Patrick O'Connell excelled as a footballer, team captain and manager, whether in Ireland, England or Spain.

"Some 130 years after his birth, the Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate Patrick O'Connell with a blue plaque in the city where he won his first professional contract. " Alan McLean from the Patrick O'Connell Memorial Fund said: "We feel sure that this legacy will be appreciated not only by Patrick's family but by football fans in Ireland, Spain and beyond."

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