Belfast Telegraph

Belfast man Patrick O'Connell who saved Barcelona recalled

By David Young

The story of a Belfast Celtic footballer who saved FC Barcelona from bankruptcy in the 1930s is to be told in a exhibition opening at Stormont next week.

Patrick O'Connell played for Belfast Celtic, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday and Hull in the years around the First World War.

He also captained Ireland before a managerial career in Spain, where in 1935 he led Real Betis FC of Seville to its one and only La Liga title.

That landed him the manager's job at Barcelona as 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 of North America generated the crucial funds needed to keep it afloat.

O'Connell died penniless in London in 1959, and for 57 years his body lay in an unmarked grave. But in 2014 supporters raised funds for a memorial in London.

O'Connell was honoured with the unveiling at Windsor Park last month of a bronze bust by Irish sculptor Joe Moran

Called The Man Who Saved FC Barcelona - the story of Patrick O'Connell, the exhibition is sponsored by West Belfast MLA Fra McCann, and will open in Stormont's Long Gallery, on Monday, May 2.

It will be open for two weeks.

Belfast Telegraph


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