Wednesday 24 January 2018

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Irish Don won't be forgotten in Spain

The reference to Paddy O'Connell [Nov 25] merits revisiting. Not only did he manage Barcelona, he also led Real Betis to their only La Liga title, played for Belfast Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday, Hull City and Manchester United. He captained United in the 1914-1915 season and was the first player from the south of Ireland to play for the Reds. He was a member of a pre-1916 Ireland team which won the British Home Championship. Indeed, he captained the team in the final match against Scotland, a 1-1 draw which secured the championship, despite playing with a broken arm (Ireland had already been reduced to 10 men)! But it was as a La Liga manager that he will be most remembered, with his Real Betis team securing the 1935 La Liga title with a 5-0 victory over Racing de Santander (ironically one of O'Connell's former teams).

He became the toast of Catalunya following his appointment as manager of Barcelona, and is widely credited as having been the saviour of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, hence his nickname Don Patricio O'Connell. He also managed Sevilla in the 1940s and led them to second place in La Liga in his inaugural season. Unfortunately, this Irish Don, despite all his achievements and successes, died destitute in London in 1959. However, thanks to a recent superb documentary on TG4, Don Patricio lives on.

Mark Lawler

Celtic has always been an Irish club

Your correspondent seems somewhat miffed that Celtic Football Club is considered "Irish" by some. I wonder why?

Celtic is presently celebrating its 125th anniversary. It is a club founded by Brother Walfrid from Sligo with the intention of aiding the poverty-stricken Irish immigrants, among others, in the east end of Glasgow. Emigrating to Scotland was a journey made by many after the Famine here.

To this day, the club maintains close links with Ireland and it has always flown the Irish Tricolour at its home games. Its present chairman and largest shareholder is Dermot Desmond, its manager is Neil Lennon and amongst its shareholders is Denis O'Brien.

And yet a begrudging Sunday Independent journalist queries why Celtic is considered more Irish than Chelsea, Bayern Munich or Barcelona? I appreciate that some sports journalists here survive solely by gorging on the over-hyped English Premier League while little coverage is given to the League of Ireland or the Scottish Premier League but surely we Celtic fans should be allowed to peacefully enjoy our 15 seconds of fame at the table of Irish sports journalists? I would also suggest that your correspondent read the comments made by Barcelona players and management after the recent game at Celtic Park. None had ever experienced anything like the atmosphere that night throughout their careers.

But then again I suppose it wasn't Liverpool v Southampton.

EF Fanning

Provocative views way off the mark

Rangers supporters used to sing to Celtic fans when they were in the same division, "The Famine's over. Why don't you go home?"

I hope that goes some way to explain 'the strange reason and the bizarre situation where Celtic are viewed as an Irish club by many in Ireland' you mentioned in the provocative, and infantile, part of your column [Nov 25].

I realise your column is a sideways look at sport we love, but as a season-ticket holder at Celtic that was not necessary at all. The links to this day from the club that was set up for Irish immigrants by Brother Walfrid in 1888 remain as strong as ever. Please note the Tricolours displayed at Celtic games by Scottish supporters of Irish origin and the current club tracksuit with tricolour on its collar as worn by Neil Lennon. The other three parts of your column were informative and based on fact not fiction. Google is your friend.

Kieran O'Brien

Dub played part in Real Madrid story

It was with interest I read last Sunday's From The Stands and the Irish connection with famous soccer clubs. Ballymote man, Brother Andrew Kerins, founded Celtic to alleviate the poverty of the Famine-stricken Irish emigrants, while another Irishman, Paddy O'Connell, saved Barcelona in 1930. Interestingly, there is a great bond between the clubs.

I discovered recently in a Spanish newspaper article that Barcelona's great rivals, the mighty Real Madrid, also has an Irish connection. Dublin-born Arthur Johnson cemented his name in the history books of Real Madrid. On May 13, 1902, Johnson scored the club's first official goal in what was unfortunately a 3-1 defeat to Barcelona.

He went on to enhance his reputation by becoming Real Madrid's first manager from 1910-1920. His term still stands as the second longest in Real's history, only exceeded by Miguel Munoz's 14 years from 1960-1974.

Raphael Kavanagh

Sunday Indo Sport

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