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He was born in old Ireland in March ’87,
Scarce knowing the troubles that fate held in store.
For ‘ere he did grace the smooth pitches of heaven,
He found lasting fame on a faraway shore.
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Patrick O’Connell, accomplished defender,
United’s first captain from Erin’s green land,
His playing days over, he kept his agenda,
And his management skills made him much in demand.
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He headed to Spain to coach Racing Santander,
As Ireland imploded in fierce Civil War,
And the Catalans took to the wayward Irelander,
As for seven long years he kept them to the fore.
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And then he joined Betis where, just two yeas later,
The Championship fell to this gallant young man.
By now he’d no need of a Spanish translator,
Fluent in language and charm and élan.
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Then Barca came calling and Patrick responded,
Though the once mighty giants were down on their knees.
As usual, his players became tightly bonded,
With the Catalan championship won by degrees.
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When the Civil War broke, he was home on vacation,
But he hurried to Spain to be there with his side.
And they triumphed again to immense adulation,
Despite all the horrors washed upon the tide.
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The Barcelona president, a left politician,
Was murdered by fascists and the future looked grim.
Then Franco decreed that next year’s competition
Could only be played by clubs loyal to him.
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The city in turmoil, all honour diminished,
And murder and mayhem a most constant threat,
No income, no games, Barcelona were finished,
The clubs faced a bankrupting slide into debt.
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Then Patrick O’Connell led them from the city,
In order to play on a Mexican tour.
The financial offer was not made from pity,
For the Catalan team were still held in great awe.
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Three weeks, it transpired, was too short a duration,
And so it was stretched, as a players’ reward.
Returning by boat to a fractious new nation,
O’Connell had only four players on board.
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Now Franco was always a Real supporter,
And Barca’s officials were quickly replaced.
The logic in that didn’t hold too much water,
With talented people just going to waste.
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In London, he passed on, both penniless and friendless,
A tired old man with no will to survive.
But in the Catalan region, his legend is endless,
As the hero who kept Barcelona alive.