Dr Kevin O’Flanagan played for Arsenal between 1945 and 1948 making a grand total of 16 Football League starts and scoring three goals.
Hardly the most illustrious of our men to be remembered on the Highbury Wall at the Ems, but he was such an extraordinary man that he really needs to be be remembered on this site.
The headline that is usually given when Kevin is mentioned is that he played for Ireland at both football and rugby. But that’s only the start. He was also a sprint champion. And…
From 1936 to 1945 he played for Bohemians in Ireland, while continuing his studies at University College Dublin. He first came to the attention of football clubs in England in 1937 when he played for Ireland juniors against a Birmingham team and scored twice. Liverpool, Villa and Man U offered him places but he continued with his education in Ireland. He scored for Ireland in a 1938 world cup qualifier against Norway. He is also one of those men who played both for Northern Ireland and for the Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland).
His first class career was ended by an ankle injury after three years, although over the next three years he played for Corinthian Casuals, Barnet and Brentford, before calling it a day in 1950.
In his first season with Arsenal, he played 18 times for the club in the Football League South, and scored 11 goals which made him Arsenal’s top scorer. He also played twice in the FA Cup for us that season.
The stories about the good doctor are everywhere. During one game, when he was determined not to allow a ball go out of play over the opposition’s goal line, near the corner flag, he is said to have sprinted 50 yards in about 5 seconds, missed the ball, refused to stop and careered into the crowd, landing 4 or 5 rows back. Luckily they were Arsenal supporters and he was gently manhandled overhead back on to the pitch.
Fortunately Kevin was also a long jumper so he would have known how to do that bit. He also played Gaelic football, golf and tennis.
On September 30, 1946 both Kevin and his brother played for Ireland against England.
After football he became an official with the International Olympic Committee, only retiring in 1994 after 18 years service becoming an honorary lifetime member of IOC.
But his work with the IOC continued for many years, as he was a member of the IOC Drugs Panel from 1977 to 1999 and was a member of the Medical Commissioin from 1980 to 1994.
Now there is one more story to be told – but I have left that at home today, so I am going to have to add it later, unless one of my colleagues would like to jump in with it. It involves the good doctor and a referee.
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