Saturday 3 December 2016

Forgotten footballing great finally honoured with plaque

Published 06/06/2015 | 02:30

Mike O’Connell (second from left), the grandson of Patrick O’Connell, the legendary footballer, with left to right: Martin Buchan, former Manchester Utd and Scotland captain; Bertie Auld, 1967 European Cup winner with Celtic; John Clarke, also part of the Lisbon Lions who won the European Cup in 1967, and Steve Archibald, former Spurs and Barcelona player, at the unveiling of a plaque in O’Connell’s honour at 87 Fitzroy Avenue, Drumcondra, Dublin, where he lived.
Mike O’Connell (second from left), the grandson of Patrick O’Connell, the legendary footballer, with left to right: Martin Buchan, former Manchester Utd and Scotland captain; Bertie Auld, 1967 European Cup winner with Celtic; John Clarke, also part of the Lisbon Lions who won the European Cup in 1967, and Steve Archibald, former Spurs and Barcelona player, at the unveiling of a plaque in O’Connell’s honour at 87 Fitzroy Avenue, Drumcondra, Dublin, where he lived.
A portrait – by artist Tony Denton – of Patrick O’Connell in 1915. Photo: Tom Burke

From humble beginnings in a small terraced house in Dublin, a man named Patrick O'Connell went on to become one of the biggest influences in international soccer in his day, but it has taken until now to recognise his achievements.

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At the unveiling of a plaque on 87 Fitzroy Avenue in Drumcondra yesterday, O'Connell, who was born in 1887, was remembered as a remarkable man who became the first Irishman to captain Manchester United a century ago, and went on to save Barcelona FC from bankruptcy.

But despite his legendary football career, Patrick died destitute in 1959 and is buried in an unmarked grave at St Mary's Cemetery in Kensal Green in London.

Patrick's grandson Mike O'Connell helped at the unveiling of the plaque yesterday and spoke movingly about his famous grandad.

"When I looked at the house, I thought of how Patrick's mother and father brought up 12 children in it. I was quite moved," he said.

"I knew all about my grandfather up to his time with Manchester United but after that the story disappeared, so nothing more was known about him for 40 years until my wife Sue spent 15 years researching him," Mike explained.

Patrick began his professional career with Belfast Celtic FC in 1908 and later moved to Sheffield Wednesday.

A memorial fund has now been set up by friends to raise funds to restore Patrick's grave. Donations can be made through Fergus Dowd on fergus.dowd@aol.com.

Irish Independent

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