O'Flanagan, Kevin Patrick (1919–2006), athlete, rugby and soccer international, Olympics administrator, and medical doctor, was born 10 June 1919 in Dublin, son of Timothy O'Flanagan, tobacconist, and his wife Teresa (née McLaughlin). Raised in Terenure, he attended CBS, Synge St., where he displayed early sporting prowess in Gaelic games; he captained the school to the under-16 All-Ireland championship. Selected for the under-16 Dublin GAA minor panel, both he and Johnny Carey (qv) were dropped from the panel when the GAA authorities discovered that they were playing soccer for Home Farm FC. O'Flanagan turned to junior athletics and played a senior season with Home Farm FC (1935/6), before joining Bohemians FC (1936/7), for whom he made his first-team debut at 16. He remained with Bohemians, then an all-amateur team, for the following nine seasons and captained them to victory against Belfast Celtic, a noted professional outfit, in the Irish inter-city cup (1945). He played both on the wing and at centre forward, his versatility emanating from his all-round athletic prowess. Endowed with blistering pace and a terrific angled shot, he was a crowd favourite and prolific scorer, becoming one of the best-known sporting figures in Ireland during the 1930s and 1940s. Though he lacked some of the technique and finesse exhibited by others, his speed and agility allowed him to score regularly from the wing on angled runs at goal, often switching positions with other forwards to flummox defences.
Athletics O'Flanagan studied medicine at UCD (1937–45), where he began to play rugby. He was also vice-captain of the UCD Athletics Club (1940). Over the next decade, at both international and domestic levels, he played soccer and rugby on both sides of the Irish Sea. In May 1939, after playing in two away soccer internationals for Ireland, he retuned home and won the long jump title in the national student athletic championships in Dublin on 27 May. He won numerous national athletic championships over the years: 60-yard dash in 1939 and 1941; 100-yard dash in 1941; long jump in 1938, 1939, 1941 (when he tied with David Guiney (qv), to whom he nobly conceded the medal), and 1943.
FAI in the late 1930s O'Flanagan won ten FAI caps as a centre forward and outside right, scoring on his Irish debut – aged 18 years, 150 days, the youngest scorer for an Irish team until Robbie Keane broke his record in 1998 – in a 3–3 draw against Norway in his only World Cup qualifier (7 November 1937). Carey, at the time playing with Manchester United, also made his international debut that day. The remainder of O'Flanagan's appearances were in friendlies: pre-war, as a Bohemians player, away to Czechoslovakia (18 May 1938); away (22 May 1938) and at home (13 November 1938) against Poland; at home (19 March 1939) and away (18 May 1939) against Hungary, scoring twice to rescue a 2–2 draw in his best international performance; and away to Germany (23 May 1939).
Rugby and soccer in the war years Further international participation and wider recognition were denied him by the second world war; he would certainly have accrued more soccer caps and very likely have competed in the cancelled 1940 and 1944 Olympic games. His versatility and amateur status enabled him to become a true Corinthian, making a deep mark on mid-century Irish sport with a manic sporting schedule during the 1940s. Post-war O'Flanagan earned three further international soccer caps while an Arsenal player. In the first ever meeting under FAI authority between Ireland and England (30 September 1946), he played with his brother Michael (b. 1922) – the only two amateurs on the Irish team that day and the first brothers to appear simultaneously for Ireland – at Dalymount Park, when Ireland lost 0–1 to a Tom Finney goal. O'Flanagan's final caps came in 1947 away to Spain (2 March) and Portugal (4 May).
Playing rugby for UCD on the wing, where his speed was best deployed, he appeared in two losing Leinster senior cup finals during the war and was their star back. He also played for Lansdowne RFC; on his debut against Bective Rangers (21 September 1940), he partnered his brother Michael in the centre. He gradually became a regular fixture for Lansdowne during the war. Playing mostly at wing-three-quarter – one of the best in that position in Ireland during the war – he earned his first Leinster caps in 1940 against Ulster and Connacht; he was selected again the following season against Connacht. In January 1941 and again in 1943 he played for a 'Combined Universities' XV against a 'Rest of Ireland' selection; he also appeared for an unofficial Irish XV against a British Army XV at Ravenhill, Belfast (February 1942). Certainly not the most gifted defender on the rugby field, his prowess was based on combining 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. Though his attacking was inventive, he often ran at players rather than at space, using his strength to create opportunities for others.
Post-war sporting career His sporting achievements with his brother Michael were startling – they played together regularly for Bohemians as well as for Lansdowne RFC in 1944 and 1945. In April 1945 the brothers were 'cup tied' when Lansdowne faced a second-round replay in the Leinster senior cup against Old Belvedere, the dominant force of the era, and Bohemians an FAI cup semi-final replay against Cork City on the same day. Kevin opted to play for Bohemians, while Michael played for Lansdowne. The demand for O'Flanagan – his sporting prowess drew great crowds – continued after the war. On two consecutive weekends O'Flanagan played in an unofficial rugby international against France (26 January 1946), and for a Northern Ireland IFA selection against Scotland (2 February 1946) in an unofficial victory soccer international at Windsor Park, Belfast. Returning thereafter to medical duties in London, he was selected to play rugby the following weekend for Ireland against England in Dublin. Fog in London prevented his flight taking off and after a fruitless dash to Liverpool for the mail boat, he missed the fixture. The IRFU selectors dropped him for his non-appearance. He played again for an IFA selection, against Wales in Cardiff (4 May 1946). It was not unusual for Irish players to represent both soccer associations, with their competing claims to jurisdiction, during the 1930s and 1940s; O'Flanagan had made seven appearances for both Irish and Northern Irish league selections during the war.
Unique achievement The O'Flanagan brothers together 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 (6 December 1947), in a 3–16 loss in Dublin. Michael won his only rugby cap (28 February 1948) against Scotland in a 6–0 victory in Dublin during the 1948 Irish grand slam.
Completing his medical training in London after the war, Kevin O'Flanagan took up a position as a junior general practitioner at Ruislip, Middlesex, having signed as an amateur for Arsenal, an all-professional outfit, in August 1945. This maintained his eligibility to play rugby union; some have argued that the Irish rugby selectors frowned on his involvement with association football, and he could probably have earned more rugby caps if he had committed exclusively to the code. He scored on his debut (October) in a 2–6 loss to Charlton Athletic in the Football League South. Arsenal's then manager, George Allison, held O'Flanagan to be the hardest kicker of a dead ball he had ever seen; the power and verve of his 'cannonball' shot were already legendary in Dublin. Allison's successor, Tom Whittaker, saw O'Flanagan's refusal to accept professional terms as inhibiting a likely rise to greatness in post-war English football; he had already turned down repeated offers to turn professional from elite English clubs to pursue medicine. By the end of the 1945/6 season he had made 18 appearances as centre forward or on the right wing for Arsenal, scoring 11 goals. With the resumption of the Football League proper in the 1946/7 season, he played a further 14 league games for Arsenal, scoring three goals, alongside two FA Cup appearances (scoring two goals). Though he focused on his medical career during the week, his natural fitness allowed him to compete at the highest level while missing the training required of his teammates; abstaining from smoking and alcohol must also have helped. However his commitment to his medical career eventually limited his ability to play for Arsenal. After playing for non-league Corinthian Casuals (1947/8) and Barnet FC (1948/9), he signed for 2nd Division Brentford for the 1949/50 season. He made six appearances for them before retiring due to a recurring ankle injury.
While living in London he also played rugby with London Irish RFC. Again forced to decide between codes, as fixtures in both sports often fell on Saturdays, he chose sometimes to play for Arsenal, and other times for London Irish. The strength of his boot also impacted at London Irish where he regularly took line and goal kicks. But by the close of the decade he was exclusively concentrating on soccer.
Medicine and sport After a chance meeting with Stanley Rous, the Football Association administrator deeply involved in organising the 1948 London Olympic games, O'Flanagan advised on the provision of medical services to national teams as a member of the medical committee of the UK Olympic committee. 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 English international rugby player. This exposure to the Olympic movement, in which he would remain active for another half century, alongside his focus on sports medicine, prefigured his future career after his return to Dublin. He commenced his own medical practice 1 March 1952 at 46 Merrion Square, later moving his practice in May 1961 to 23 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, which was also his residence. He played again for Bohemians in 1952, still exhibiting notable pace, and again appearing with his brother Michael. But 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 7 to 3. Having commenced playing golf as a 'leftie', he later switched to his right hand in a sport requiring controlled power and great finesse. A member of Portmarnock and Milltown golf clubs, he was a prominent, capable amateur on the Irish club circuit over the next two decades. He also played competitive lawn tennis for Tempelogue Tennis Club and was a pavilion member of Fitzwilliam LTC.
O'Flanagan built up a successful sports medicine practice while acting as honorary medical officer to a number of different teams and sporting associations, including the Dublin GAA panel and Bohemians FC. While no doubt expanding the reach of his medical practice, it demonstrated that his commitment to sport remained undiminished. 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 authored 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.
Olympic games administration Serving as honorary medical officer to the Irish Olympic team for each of the four games from 1960 to 1972, he became deeply involved with Olympic and sporting administration in Ireland. 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 a number of years, and was appointed in 1981 to a committee to examine sports injuries by Jim Tunney (qv), minister of state with responsibility for sport. He served on the IOC's medical commission (1980–94), at a time when the rise of anabolic steroid use in sport had become a worldwide issue, especially after the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He served on the Olympic programme (summer) commission (1993–4), lobbying unsuccessfully for the inclusion of golf in the summer games. After twenty years on the IOC, reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75, 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 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 found that no bribery or corruption had taken place. O'Flanagan was named, amongst other IOC members, as one of those who benefited; tickets, return flights and accommodation had been provided for O'Flanagan and his brother to attend the Wimbeldon 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. In fact, O'Flanagan's long service to the movement (having been directly involved with the games between the 1948 London 'austerity' games and the lavish 1976 Montreal games, and as a senior administrator for the following two decades) coincided with the transition of the Olympics from a voluntary, amateur ethos to a professional and highly commercial games. As honorary medical officer to four Irish Olympic teams, he served voluntarily as both team doctor and physiotherapist; he balked at the 'pampering' of athletes at later Olympiads. His acceptance of gifts and trips (he stated he never accepted cash bribes), openly proffered by ambitious city bids in the 1990s, might clash with later standards of administrative rectitude, yet his largely unpaid commitment over five decades to a movement in transition was exemplary.
O'Flanagan chaired the National Association for Rehabilitation from 1967, having been a director since 1960. He 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 ('World Congress of the International Society for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled') to Dublin in September 1969, and presided over what was the largest ever medical or scientific gathering to be held in Ireland up to that point.
Reputation Voted into the Caltex (later Texaco) Hall of Fame in 1965 for his lifetime achievements in sport, he was inducted for all-round sporting prowess. He was instated in the Opel Sports Hall of Fame in September 1996. O'Flanagan's single-season scoring record for Bohemians, of 34 goals in 31 games in all competitions (1942/3), stood until broken by Glen Crowe in May 2001 with 35 goals in 44 games. Certainly one of the greatest Corinthians in Irish sport, leading an all-amateur Bohemians side in their heyday, holding his own as an amateur in the English first division, and making his mark in rugby and athletics, O'Flanagan managed to compete at the highest levels of sport while a medical student and later a practitioner. His true vocation was arguably medicine. His desire to pursue his sporting career during the latter 1940s, when his medical training commitments were onerous and poorly paid, demonstrated his dedication to amateurism. O'Flanagan may not sit fully alongside T. G. McVeagh (qv) as one of the greatest Irish all-rounders, but the range and depth of his impact on Irish sport, as a participant, administrator and medic, are of the first rank.
O'Flanagan retired from medicine and sports administration in 1993, and moved to Sutton, Co. Dublin. He was appointed (1996) to the Dublin International Sports Council, established the previous year to assess Dublin's ambitions to make a bid to host the Olympic games. He died unmarried 26 May 2006 in Dublin, and was survived by his younger brothers Michael and Charlie, and his sister Trixie.