Tribute to the Irish coach who saved FC Barcelona during the Spanish war
DIPLOCAT – His grandson and the Patrick O’Connell Fund attend a FC Barcelona match against Betis
Within its program of sports diplomacy, the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (DIPLOCAT) organised on 30 December 2015 an event to pay tribute to the ex-player and ex-football trainer Patrick O’Connell before the start of the Camp Nou match of Betis and Barça, two of the teams trained by O’Connell.
The event was organised jointly with the Patrick O’Connell Memorial Fund in Dublin and FC Barcelona, member of the Board of DIPLOCAT. Among the attendants was the President of FC Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu; grandson of the trainer Mike O’Connell; representatives of the Patrick O’Connell Memorial Fund Fergus McLean and Alan Dowd; Irish MP Maureen O’Sullivan; DIPLOCAT Executive Director Laura Foraster; ex-FCB player Steve Archibald; and the artist Tony Denton, author of the Patrick O’Connell painting, which was given to the FCB Museum. The TV crew of a documentary on O’Connell’s life currently under preparation was also present.
Patrick O’Connell is a relatively little-known coach in the history of FC Barcelona, who was however the one who assured the survival of the club at a particularly difficult time. Coming from Sevilla where he trained Betis, the Irish joined Barça for the season 1935/36. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War took him by surprise during his vacation in Ireland, but he returned to Barcelona. “His friend Josep Suñol I Garriga sent him a telegram saying that it was not necessary for him to come back, but he wanted to return to be at the side of Barça and Catalonia”, explained his grandson, living in Manchester. O’Connell returned and won the Mediterranean League in 1937, the only one that took place that year. In that same year he took the team on tour to Mexico and the United States and the earnings served to ensure the survival of the club after the war and allowed the departure of many players to teams abroad.
The Patrick O’Connell Memorial Fund undertakes various initiatives to preserve the memory of the player, both in Dublin and in Belfast, where he was born. DIPLOCAT, on the other hand, has organised several public diplomacy actions related to Ireland, such as the tributes to political activist Charles Stewart Parnell and labor leader James Connolly in May 2015, and a debate at the Parliament of Ireland in July 2015.