Irish La Liga Legend Honoured

A bust of the former Ireland and Manchester United captain, who is credited with saving Barcelona from extinction and guided Real Betis to their only La Liga title, will fly with us today to Spain to be honoured by his former club.

 

La Liga Patrick O'Connell

On Friday 03 March, a group from the Patrick O’Connell Memorial Fund including Maureen O’Sullivan TD and Kerry sporting legend Paul Galvin flew with us to Malaga. Seated next to them was the bust of Patrick O’Connell. The bust will be presented to the President of Real Betis Angel Haro shortly before the club’s home game against Real Sociedad.

Patrick’s Story

O’Connell grew up in Dublin and began his professional football career with Belfast Celtic in 1909. It was not long before he was impressing clubs in England and secured a move to Sheffield Wednesday. He was also excelling on the international stage with stellar performances for Ireland. In 1914 the talented O’Connell helped Ireland gain their first away victory over England in 1914. This win, together with a win over Wales and a draw with Scotland, led Ireland to win their first British Home Championship in 1914. Shortly after his commanding performances for Ireland, O’Connell transferred to Manchester United. He was the first Irishman to captain the club.

Following the outbreak of the first world war, the Football Association in England suspended top-flight football, and O’Connell spent the war working in a munitions factory. In 1922 he started his managerial career with Racing Santander. Under O’Connell’s leadership, the club won five regional titles. Success followed him to Real Betis, who upon O’Connell’s arrival were a second division club overshadowed by the city’s more prestigious Sevilla.

In a true underdog story, comparable to Leicester City’s amazing rise culminating in their 2016 league win, O’Connell masterminded the Seville side’s promotion from the second division before securing their only ever La Liga title in 1935. This success led him to the manager’s position with FC Barcelona. The club was struggling to stay afloat with the onset of the Spanish civil war. Patrick has been credited with saving the club from financial ruin by bringing his team on a tour of Mexico and the US generating crucial funds for the Catalan club.

The bust of Patrick O’Connell will be placed alongside the La Liga trophy he helped secure for the team in the Real Betis museum.

 

Irish La Liga Legend Patrick O'Connell

The bust of “Don Patricio” was flown by Captain Aidan Bergin and his crew on board EI582 from Dublin to Malaga.