Northern Ireland

Patrick O'Connell: Barcelona honours ex-Belfast Celtic man

The mural to Patrick O'Connell was unveiled in west Belfast on Friday Image copyright PA
Image caption A mural to Patrick O'Connell was unveiled in west Belfast in August.

A Dubliner who played for Belfast Celtic more than 100 years ago is to be honoured on Wednesday night by football giants Barcelona.

Patrick O'Connell is revered at the Catalan club and credited as the man who saved them from extinction during the Spanish Civil War.

O'Connell, their manager at the time, helped organise a money-spinning tour to Mexico and the US.

He will be inducted into the club's hall of fame on Wednesday night.

The Dubliner, who also captained Manchester United during his football career, died in poverty in London and lies in an unmarked grave.

In August, a mural was unveiled in west Belfast in honour of O'Connell, known as 'Don Patricio' in Barcelona.

His grandson Michael will be at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night where Patrick will be honoured ahead of a Barcelona La Liga match against Real Betis - another team his grandfather managed.

Michael O'Connell said Patrick had largely been forgotten about in the UK and Ireland until his wife started to research him.

'Most famous name'

"She discovered that between 1920 and 1950 his was the most famous name in Spanish football," he said.

"Tonight Barcelona are playing Real Betis and Grandfather Patrick managed both teams.

"He managed Betis the only time they ever won La Liga and he managed Barcelona for the three years of the Spanish Civil War."

Mr O'Connell, who said he was very proud of his grandfather, said he got an idea of how famous he was when he visited a bar in Seville (home of Real Betis).

"The barman said 'are you on holiday?' and I said 'no we're researching my grandfather who used to manage Real Betis'," he said.

"He said 'wait a minute', ran upstairs in the bar and came back down with a painting of my grandfather as big as himself that he had on his wall downstairs.

"He was as famous as that."

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