Born in Dublin, O’Connell played in the backline for Belfast Celtic in the early 1900’s, before he was transferred to Sheffield Wednesday, along with left-back Peter Warren, joining the Hillsborough club for the combined fee of £50.
After three years there, he moved to Hull City where he was spotted by Manchester United, who parted with an incredible £1,000 to secure his services.
He was a proud Irish international and the most famous of his six appearances came in a 6-1 walloping of England in 1912, where he played with his Belfast Celtic and Man Utd colleague Mickey Hamill.
In 1914, just before the outbreak of the war, O’Connell braved a broken arm to Captain Ireland to victory yet again against England, at Middlesborough’s Ayrsome Park, in a 3-0 win.
After spells at Dunbarton and Ashington, O’Connell travelled to Spain in 1922 as manager of Racing Santander, who would help found La Liga with O’Connell at the helm.
After spells at Real Oviedo and Real Betis, Spanish MP Josep Sunyol, plucked Paddy to manage the side he Chaired and on the outbreak of the Iberian civil war, after Sunyol was murdered, a lucrative tour of North America, led by O’Connell, secured Barca’s financial future.
Even though many of his players accepted political asylum in the USA and Mexico, ‘Don Patricio’ returned to Catalunya to help re-build the team and the club.
A final spell in management at Sevilla would see a second place La Liga finish, but despite his starry career as a player and manager, O’Connell faded into obscurity and now lies in an un-marked grave in a cemetery in Kilburn in London.
Moves are being made to mark the resting place of this giant of Irish football and the Belfast Celtic Society will be part of the plans, assisting financially with the erection of some form of marker or headstone, in conjunction with the O’Connell family.
Film Producer Gráinne McElwain, said; “When you consider what Paddy O’Connell has achieved in his sporting life, it’s incredible. He was born in Dublin, played football with Belfast Celtic and then went on to play and captain Manchester United during World War One before being appointed manager of one of the most famous European Clubs of all time FC Barcelona and who also helped save that club from falling into the hands of Franco during the Spanish Civil War.He was called Paddy “Don Patricio” in Spain and although time has forgotten Paddy O’Connell, we are delighted to bring his remarkable story to life.”
Presenter Tony Devlin believes, “Although they went out of business over 60 years ago, Belfast Celtic is still alive and well in the memories of lots of people. “As a Belfast man and a Celtic supporter, It is a great honour for me to tell the tale of one of its finest players. “Belfast Celtic was where Paddy O’Connell would ply his trade before coming to the attention of two of the worlds biggest footballing names, Man Utd and Barcelona.
“This mans incredible story takes us on a journey from lowly, humble beginnings to football stardom, to heroism and bravery in his fight against facism during the spanish civil war. Stories like Paddy O’Connell’s cannot be lost in the annals of history.” To find out more about Tobar Productions, click online at www.tobarproductions.com.
Keep an eye on www.belfastceltic.org for more news.