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Patrick O'Connell Wartime manager

Patrick O'Connell deserves a special mention in any Barça history. The former Ireland captain managed Barça in the 1935/36 season, guiding the team into the cup final. The outbreak of the Civil War meant there was no national league the following year, but O’Connell insisted on keeping the team active and took them on a fund-raising tour of North America. When the conflict ended, he returned for another season before leaving for Betis. Although in many ways, this Westmeath native saved the club from a potential catastrophe and was one of the most brilliant managers of his era, he died a destitute man in London in 1959. The Patrick O’Connell Memorial Fund has since found his unmarked tomb and recently held a charity auction to raise funds to erect a monument in his memory. FC Barcelona donated a shirt signed by the first team-squad in support of the cause..

European meetings

Barça have only played Irish teams twice in UEFA competitions. The first time was in the 1963/64 Cup Winners Cup first round against Shelbourne. Despite battling hard, the Dubliners lost the first leg at home 2–0, the goals scored by Zaldúa and Pereda. The Shels actually took the lead from a Pat Bonham penalty in the return at the Camp Nou, but Barça eventually won 3–1 (and 5–1 on aggregate), with goals from Sándor Kocsis, Josep Maria Fusté and Cayetano Re.

The other meeting, in 1971, was against a side from Northern Ireland, Distillery, and was also in the first round of the Cup Winners Cup. The first leg at the Camp Nou was all about one man – Marcial Pina. The Asturian midfielder scored all four of Barça’s goals in a 4–0 win. Barça also won the return match in Lisburn, 3–1, with two goals from Asensi and another from Alfonseda.

O’Neill thwarts Barça

Distillery’s solitary goal was scored by a promising 19-year-old called Martin O’Neill, who a year later would be signed by Nottingham Forest. And the rest, as they say, is history. Many years later, in 2003, O’Neill would be facing Barcelona again, this time as manager of Celtic, a side based in Scotland but with close connections to Ireland. After an Alan Thompson goal gave the Celts a 1–0 win in Glasgow against a Barça side that had both Thiago Motta and Javier Saviola sent off, the Scots managed to hold out for a 0–0 draw at the Camp Nou and progress to the next round. O’Neill, who now manages the Irish national team, was also in charge of Celtic when they met Barça in the Champions League group stage a year later. Barça won 3–1 at Celtic Park and the game in Barcelona ended 1–1.

Ireland in the Miniestadi

The Irish national team were guests of FC Barcelona in March 2001, when the Miniestadi hosted their World Cup qualifier against Andorra, whose national stadium was too small to accommodate 5,000 travelling Irish supporters. Ireland struggled to find their way past their ultra-defensive opponent, but an Ian Harte penalty eventually broke the deadlock. Kevin Kilbane and Matt Holland added two late goals to seal a 3–0 win for Ireland, who would go on to qualify for the finals in Korea and Japan, where they went out to Spain on penalties in the round of 16.

U2 at the Camp Nou

Irish rock sensations U2 were at the Camp Nou on 30 June and 2 July, 2009 for the first two of the 110 concerts on their 360º Tour. The 90,000 tickets for the first show set a new Spanish record by selling out in 54 minutes. This was the year of Barça’s famous treble and lead singer Bono made a special request to meet Pep Guardiola. The first team manager accepted, and presented Bono with a Barça shirt, which the U2 frontman wore during the show. “I want to thank the club for all the aid it has given us for this concert,” he said. “And above all for the dedication it has shown to humanitarian causes such as the UNICEF advertising on the jersey.”

Derry friendly

Barcelona’s last visit to Ireland was to Derry City in 2003. The Irish club was going through serious financial difficulties, and Barça offered to take their full-strength squad to the Brandywell for a preseason friendly. Barça impressed with a 5–0 victory, the goals scored by Rafael Marquez, Patrick Andersson, Marc Overmans, Javier Saviola and Ronaldinho.


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