HAVE YOU EVER heard the one about the Drumcondra-born footballer who made a name for himself at Belfast Celtic before going onto play for Manchester United and leading Barcelona to silverware as their manager?
Patrick O’Connell (or Paddy Don Patricio) had an incredible career in the beautiful game during the first half of the 20th century yet, remarkably, many people have never heard of the man.
Born into a working-class family in 1887, O’Connell earned the reputation as a talented defender for Liffey Wanderers. A move north followed and he was soon playing in England – for Sheffield Wednesday, Hull City then Manchester United, where he became captain and was involved in a betting scandal with a number of team-mates.
During this time, he earned several caps for Ireland and won the British Home Nations Championship in 1914.
He made the move to Spain after hanging up his boots and led Real Betis to an unlikely league win in 1935. The Catalan giants came calling on the back of that success and while they didn’t compete in La Liga due to the Spanish Civil War, Barca toured Mexico and North America – earning a large fee and keeping them afloat financially.
Directed by IFTA award winner Pat Comer (In the Name of the Fada, Tall Dark & Ó hAilpín), and produced by Gráinne McElwain (Stone Cold Sober, GAA BEO, Imeall Geal), Paddy Don Patricio premiered in Belfast and will be shown on TG4 tonight (9.30pm).
Whilst he enjoyed adulation and famous victories on the field of play, his personal life was tainted with both the suspicion of match fixing and the reality of an abandoned family and bigamy,” ,” a press release for tonight’s documentary reads.
“Complex and colourful throughout, Paddy was to learn that life, like football is a game of two halves and he ended his days alone and in poverty, his grave unmarked and his sporting achievements all but forgotten.”
Watch the trailer here: