Belfast Telegraph

Film hails Belfast Celtic hero 'who saved Barcelona'

By Adrian Rutherford

A film honouring the life of a Belfast Celtic footballer credited with saving FC Barcelona from ruin will premiere this week.

Don Patricio tells the remarkable story of Patrick O'Connell. The 90-minute documentary was filmed in Northern Ireland, the Republic, Spain, Mexico and the UK, with a host of sporting names taking part.

They include former Manchester United goalkeeper Harry Gregg and Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.

It premieres tonight at the Sugar Club in Dublin, before getting its first Northern Ireland screening at the Queen's Film Theatre in Belfast tomorrow evening.

Born in Dublin, Patrick O'Connell won his first professional contract with Belfast Celtic. He went on to pursue a managerial career in Spain where in 1935 he led Real Betis to their only La Liga title. That achievement landed him the manager's job at Barcelona just before the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936.

With General Franco intent on destroying the famous Catalan club, O'Connell's decision to take his team on a tour to Mexico and the US generated the crucial funds needed to keep it afloat.

Despite these feats, O'Connell died destitute in London in 1959 and was buried in an unmarked grave in Kensal Green cemetery.

Don Patricio tells his story while following the Patrick O'Connell Memorial Fund - four football fans who have worked to keep his memory alive.

Fergus Dowd, Alan McLean, Simon Needham and Maureen O'Sullivan have raised funds for his grave and publicised his football achievements in the cities he played in and whose teams he managed, including Belfast.

In Northern Ireland filming took place on Albert Street on the Falls Road, where O'Connell lived, and on the Shankill Road where he would drink as a Belfast Celtic player.

Filming also took place at Windsor Park, the Belfast Celtic Museum on the Donegall Road, and in Coleraine.

Contributions to the documentary were also made by Northern Ireland assistant boss Jimmy Nicholl.

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