Football legends campaign for fitting memorial to Patrick O’Connell

PUBLISHED: 17:48 12 August 2014 | UPDATED: 12:42 29 August 2014

Dutch legend Johan Cruyff signing an FC Barcelona shirt for the Patrick O'Connell Memorial Fund

Dutch legend Johan Cruyff signing an FC Barcelona shirt for the Patrick O'Connell Memorial Fund


Football legends from around the world have come together to raise money for a former Manchester United and Barcelona manager who is buried in Kilburn.

Patrick O’Connell, from Drumcondra in Dublin, started his playing career with Belfast Celtic and was the first Irishman to captain Manchester United in 1915.

He went on to manage Real Betis to the Spanish title in 1935 and is fondly remembered in Barcelona for the part he played in saving the club from extinction during the civil war.

Despite these successes, he died destitute in London in 1959 aged 71 and his unmarked grave at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Kilburn does not reflect the life he led.

Icons from David Beckham to Johan Cruyff and Roy Keane are throwing their support behind a campaign to clean up the grave and erect a memorial to the man known affectionately in Spain as ‘Don Patricio’.

“Next year marks the centenary of his time as manager of Man United,” said Fergus Dowd of the memorial fund team.

“Sadly the last 10 years of his life remain a mystery but, when I heard his story at a charity event, as a football fan I felt something needed to be done to reflect his achievements as there is currently nothing to remember him in the UK or Ireland.”

With the help of two others, Mr Dowd has set about contacting football stars around the globe for signed shirts and has been overwhelmed with the response.

After signing a shirt, former Barcelona and Portugal star Luis Figo said: “Please convey to the family my wishes that they achieve their goal and raise enough money to honour their grandfather.”

The Patrick O’Connell Memorial Fund Team will be launching their campaign at the Belfast Celtic Museum at the Park Centre, Belfast on Saturday August 30 at 2pm.

The organisation will be outlining their aims and fundraising ideas and putting on display donated signed shirts from legends of world football who have supported the cause to date.

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