Kevin O'Flanagan

Sporting all-rounder for Ireland


Kevin Patrick O'Flanagan, footballer, rugby player, athlete, medical practitioner and sports administrator: born Dublin 10 June 1919; died Dublin 26 May 2006.

There is no shortage of talented brothers who have played international sport but few, if any, can match the achievements of the Dublin-born O'Flanagans. The second of four brothers, Kevin O'Flanagan became an international in both football and rugby and was also the Irish sprint and long-jump champion.

Not to be outdone, his younger brother Michael matched his achievement of becoming a double international and the two men actually played on the same Irish football side against England in Dublin in 1946. It took an 82nd-minute goal from Tom Finney to beat an Irish team that not only included the O'Flanagan brothers up front, but also Con Martin, Paddy Coad and Tommy Eglington.

Despite attending a largely Gaelic football-orientated school, the Christian Brothers school in Synge Street, Kevin O'Flanagan became an accomplished football player at a young age and made his début for Bohemians when he was 16. Two years later, in November 1937, he marked his début for Ireland with a goal from inside-left in a 3-3 draw with Norway in a World Cup qualifier at Dalymount Park.

O'Flanagan won seven of his 10 Irish caps while playing as an amateur for Bohemians. After qualifying as a doctor from University College Dublin in 1945, he moved to Ruislip to practise and signed as an amateur for Arsenal in 1946. He spent one season at Highbury, scoring three goals in a run of 14 Division One matches. He made his English league début against Blackburn Rovers on 4 September 1946 and played 20 games in all for the Gunners, including two FA Cup appearances. His colourful career also included stints with non-league Barnet and six league appearances for Brentford in 1949.

O'Flanagan also used his speed to great purpose and success on the rugby pitch. In 1942, when he was combining football with Bohemians and rugby with University College Dublin, he was selected to play for the Irish XV against the British Army at Ravenhill. While at Arsenal, he also turned out for London Irish and played in the unofficial rugby Test against France at Lansdowne Road in 1947.

His one cap for the Irish rugby team came against the touring Australians in 1947, a 16-3 defeat at Lansdowne Road. His brother Michael fared a little better later in the same season when he played in the win over Scotland that helped Ireland clinch their only Grand Slam to date in 1948, thus making the O'Flanagans the only brothers to have played soccer and rugby for their country.

An Irish sprint champion at 60 and 100 metres, as well as a four-times winner of the national long jump title, Kevin O'Flanagan would have been a certainty to make the Irish Olympic team in either 1940 or 1944 had the Second World War not intervened. However, in 1948 he began an involvement with the Games which lasted more than 50 years when he was a member of the medical team at the London Olympiad.

After resettling his medical practice in Upper Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin in the early Fifties, he became the chief medical officer for the Irish Olympic team from 1960 to 1976. He was also a member of the International Olympic Committee from 1976 until 1995.

Rob Cole

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