O'Flanagan, Kevin Patrick (1919–2006), athlete, rugby and soccer international, Olympics administrator and medical doctor, was born on 10 June 1919 in Dublin, son of Timothy O'Flanagan, tobacconist, and his wife Teresa (née McLaughlin). Raised in Terenure, he attended the Christian Brothers' School, Synge Street, where he displayed early sporting prowess in Gaelic football, captaining the school to the under-16 All-Ireland championship. Selected for the under-16 Dublin Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) minor panel, both he and Johnny Carey (qv) were dropped when the GAA authorities discovered that they played soccer for Home Farm Football Club (FC). O'Flanagan played a senior season with Home Farm FC (1935/6), before joining Bohemians FC (1936/7), making his first-team debut at sixteen. He remained with Bohemians, then an all-amateur team, for the following nine seasons. His 1942/3 single-season scoring record for Bohemians of thirty-four goals in thirty-one games in all competitions stood until broken by Glen Crowe in May 2001. In the semi-final (May 1945) of the Inter-city Cup against Distillery (Belfast), O’Flanagan scored two goals (one from the touchline) while his brother Michael (qv) scored the winner. In the final Kevin captained Bohemians to victory against Belfast Celtic, a noted professional outfit. Blessed with all-round athletic prowess, he played both on the wing and at centre-forward. He scored on his international debut for Ireland (Football Association of Ireland (FAI)) in a 3–3 draw against Norway at Dalymount Park in his only World Cup qualifier (7 November 1937); aged eighteen years, 150 days, he was Ireland's youngest international scorer until Robbie Keane broke his record in 1998. He earned ten caps in total (1937–47), scoring two more goals in his best international performance away to Hungary on 18 May 1939 to rescue a 2–2 draw. Endowed with blistering pace and a terrific shot, he was a prolific scorer and crowd favourite, becoming one of the best-known sporting figures in Ireland. Courted by English league clubs, he remained in Ireland to focus on his education, allowing him to compete in multiple sports.
While studying medicine at University College Dublin (UCD) (1937–45), he became vice-captain of the UCD Athletics Club (1940). After playing in two away soccer internationals, he returned to win the long jump title in the national student athletic championships in Dublin on 27 May 1939. He won numerous National Athletic and Cycling Association (NACA) national championships over the years: 60-yard dash (1939 and 1941), 100-yard dash (1941), and long jump (1938, 1939, and 1943); in the 1941 long jump competition he tied with David Guiney (qv), to whom he generously conceded the medal. O’Flanagan’s NACA athletics titles rendered him ineligible to compete for Ireland internationally, as only the Amateur Athletic Union of Éire was then recognised by the International Amateur Athletics Federation.
O'Flanagan also took up rugby at UCD, appearing in two losing Leinster senior cup finals during the war. He also played for Lansdowne FC, partnering his brother Michael in the centre on his debut against Bective Rangers (21 September 1940). Playing mostly at wing-three-quarter, he earned his first Leinster caps in 1940 against Ulster and Connacht. In January 1941 and again in 1943 he played for a 'Combined Universities' XV against a 'Rest of Ireland' selection, and also appeared for an unofficial Irish XV against a British Army XV at Ravenhill, Belfast (February 1942). Although not a great defender, he combined searing pace with intelligent, creative running. The 'O'Flanagan waltz', his trademark on the rugby pitch, saw him change pace and direction with ease to slice through defences on angled runs. His sporting achievements with his brother Michael were impressive: they played soccer together regularly for Bohemians as well as rugby for Lansdowne FC in 1944 and 1945.
But for the second world war, O'Flanagan would certainly have accrued more soccer caps. After qualifying from UCD as a doctor in 1945, he took up a job as a general practitioner (GP) in Ruislip, Middlesex, while for recreation he played amateur soccer with Arsenal. His skills were much in demand: on two consecutive weekends he played in an unofficial rugby international against France (26 January 1946), and soccer for a Northern Ireland Irish Football Association (IFA) selection in an unofficial international against Scotland (2 February 1946). He earned three further FAI soccer caps while an Arsenal player, his last against Portugal (4 May 1947). In total, O’Flanagan won ten international soccer caps, two with the IFA (in 1946) and eight with the FAI (1937–47), scoring three goals. In the first ever meeting between Ireland (FAI) and England (30 September 1946), he and Michael were the only two amateurs on the Irish team and the first brothers to appear together in soccer for Ireland. The O'Flanagan brothers achieved the unique distinction of being awarded international caps in both rugby and soccer. Kevin won his only official rugby cap in Ireland's first meeting with Australia in a 3–16 loss in Dublin (6 December 1947); Michael's only rugby cap came against Scotland in a 6–0 victory in Dublin (28 February 1948) during the 1948 'grand slam'. Some have suggested that the Irish rugby selectors frowned on Kevin's involvement with soccer and he could probably have earned more caps had he committed exclusively to rugby.
In October 1945 he scored on his debut for Arsenal in a 2–6 loss to Charlton Athletic in the Football League South. He joined the club as an amateur which allowed him to pursue both his post-graduate medical training and his rugby career. Arsenal's then manager, George Allison, held O'Flanagan to be the hardest kicker of a dead ball he had ever seen. Allison's successor, Tom Whittaker, saw O'Flanagan's refusal to accept professional terms as inhibiting a likely rise to greatness in English football; he had already turned down repeated offers to turn professional from elite English clubs to pursue his medical career. A committed amateur, O’Flanagan would only accept his train fare to attend training and refused match day meal vouchers, noting he had to eat anyway. By the end of the 1945/6 season he had made eighteen appearances as centre-forward or right-winger for Arsenal, scoring eleven goals. With the resumption of the Football League proper in 1946/7, he played a further fourteen league games for Arsenal, scoring three goals, alongside two FA Cup appearances (scoring two goals). His natural fitness allowed him to compete at the highest level while missing training sessions; abstaining from smoking and alcohol also helped. However his commitment to his medical career limited his Arsenal appearances, and after stints with non-league Corinthian Casuals (1947/8) and Barnet FC (1948/9), he played six times for second-division Brentford in 1949/50 before retiring from soccer owing to a recurring ankle injury. From 1945 to 1949, while invariably playing soccer on Saturday, he played rugby on Sunday with London Irish Rugby Football Club (RFC), often as the team’s star player and goal-kicker.
After a chance meeting with Stanley Rous, the Football Association (FA) administrator and a key organiser of the 1948 London Olympic games, O'Flanagan was appointed to the medical committee of the United Kingdom Olympic committee, advising on medical services to national teams. Having studied at the Clinic for Injuries in London, in July 1949 he went into practice in sports injuries with Bill Tucker, an orthopaedic surgeon and former England rugby international. O'Flanagan returned to Dublin and commenced his own practice on 1 March 1952 at 46 Merrion Square, later moving in May 1961 to 23 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, which was also his residence. During the 1951/2 season he played a further ten games for Bohemians, scoring another three goals, bringing his total for the club to ninety-seven in 148 appearances. But eventually time caught up with even such a supremely fit athlete and by the mid 1950s his sporting exploits were limited to charity football matches and the Irish golfing circuit. In 1954 alone he reduced his handicap from seven to three and, as a member of Portmarnock and Milltown golf clubs, was a prominent amateur on the Irish club circuit over the next two decades. He also played competitive lawn tennis for Templeogue Tennis Club and was a pavilion member of Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club.
O'Flanagan built up a successful sports medicine practice while acting as honorary medical officer to several different teams and sporting associations, including the Dublin GAA panel and Bohemians FC. The inaugural president of the Irish Sports Medicine Association (1970), he served on the sports medicine committee of the Council of Europe for six years. He wrote a chapter on injuries sustained in 'Association football' in a textbook, Injury in sport (1964), edited by J. R. Armstrong and W. E. Tucker; his practice focused on treatment and therapy rather than research.
Serving as honorary medical officer to the Irish Olympic team for four games (1960–72), he became deeply involved with Olympic and sporting administration. A vice-president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), he was appointed (1976) to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), replacing Lord Killanin (qv) as Ireland's representative. He represented the OCI on the Irish Sports Council for several years, and was appointed by the government in 1981 to a committee to examine sports injuries. He served on the IOC's medical commission (1980–94) and on the Olympic programme (summer) commission (1993–4), lobbying unsuccessfully for the inclusion of golf. After twenty years on the IOC, reaching the mandatory retirement age of seventy-five, he was replaced by Pat Hickey in 1995, thereafter becoming an honorary (non-voting) member of the commission. He chaired a medical commission of the OCI, established in 1990, to manage and administer random drug testing in Ireland for the first time. He was also the FAI delegate to the October 1964 FIFA world congress in Tokyo, perhaps due to his being in situ at the Olympic games held there the same month.
The Sheridan report (March 1999), commissioned by the New South Wales government to examine the awarding of the 2000 Olympic games to Sydney, found that the Sydney bid committee had violated IOC guidelines by giving gifts to IOC members, though it also concluded that no bribery or corruption had taken place. O'Flanagan was named, amongst other IOC members, as one of those who benefited, receiving tickets, return flights and accommodation to attend the Wimbledon tennis finals in 1992. This report angered the IOC, and the president of the Australian Olympic committee personally apologised to O'Flanagan for his name being released to the media. As honorary medical officer to four Irish Olympic teams, O'Flanagan served voluntarily as both team doctor and physiotherapist. His long service to the movement coincided with the transition of the Olympics from a voluntary, amateur ethos to professional and highly commercial games. His acceptance of gifts and trips openly proffered by ambitious bidders in the 1990s clashed somewhat with later regulations, but his largely unpaid commitment over five decades to a movement in transition was generally exemplary.
From 1967 he chaired the National Association for Rehabilitation, having been a director since 1960, and sought to improve facilities and programmes for those with mental and physical disabilities. Campaigning and fundraising for the establishment of sheltered workshops and support services, he drew upon his wide range of sporting, social and medical contacts. He was central in bringing the 11th World Congress on Rehabilitation to Dublin in September 1969, presiding over what was then the largest ever medical or scientific gathering held in Ireland.
One of the greatest Corinthians in the history of Irish sport and one of the best-known sporting figures in mid-twentieth century Ireland, O'Flanagan was voted into the Caltex (later Texaco) Hall of Fame (1965) for his all-round sporting prowess, and also inducted into the Opel Sports Hall of Fame (1996). The range and depth of his impact on Irish sport, as a participant, administrator and medic, are of the first rank. He retired from medicine and sports administration in 1993, and moved to Sutton, Co. Dublin. He died unmarried 26 May 2006 in Dublin, and was survived by his younger brothers Michael and Charlie (who also played soccer for Bohemians), and his sister Trixie.