Mick O'Brien (footballer, born 1893)

Michael Terrance O'Brien (10 August 1893 – 21 September 1940), commonly referred to as Mick O'Brien, was an Irish footballer and coach whose career took him to at least 17 different clubs. A well built six footer, O'Brien was highly regarded as a centre-half. O'Brien was a dual international and played for both Ireland teams – the IFA XI and the FAI XI. In April 1927 O'Brien made his debut for the FAI XI, four days after he made his last appearance for the IFA XI. During the 1930s O'Brien managed both Queens Park Rangers and Ipswich Town.

Mick O'Brien
O'Brien while with Queens Park Rangers in 1922.
Personal information
Full name Michael Terrance O'Brien
Date of birth (1893-08-10)10 August 1893
Place of birth Ushaw Moor, England
Date of death 21 September 1940(1940-09-21) (aged 47)[1]
Place of death Uxbridge, England
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)[2]
Position(s) Centre half, forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1911 Walker Celtic
1912 Blyth Spartans
1912–1913 Celtic 0 (0)
1913–14 Blyth Spartans
1914–1915 Brentford 9 (3)
1918–1919 Alloa Athletic (trial)
1919 Norwich City 10 (1)
1919–1920 South Shields 3 (0)
1920–1922 Queens Park Rangers 66 (3)
1922–1924 Leicester City 65 (6)
1924–1926 Hull City 74 (0)
1926 Brooklyn Wanderers 7 (0)
1926–1928 Derby County 3 (0)
1928–1929 Walsall 34 (0)
1929–1931 Norwich City 64 (5)
1931–1933 Watford 61 (5)
National team
1921–1927 Ireland 10 (0)
1927–1932 Irish Free State 4 (0)
1921 English League XI 1 (2)
Teams managed
1933–1935 Queens Park Rangers
1935–1936 Brentford (assistant)
1936–1937 Ipswich Town
1939–1940 Cork City[3]
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Club career

O'Brien did not play soccer until he was 18 when his family settled in South Shields in Tyne and Wear. He then played for several clubs in the North East of England, including Blyth Spartans, before attracting the interest of Celtic.[4] However, after failing to make it into the Celtic first team he joined Brentford in December 1914.[4] During the First World War, O'Brien served in both the Royal Navy and the Royal Flying Corps.[5]

Between 1919 and 1933, O'Brien went on to make 370 English League appearances, scoring 19 goals, for eight different clubs. These included Queens Park Rangers, Leicester City, Hull City, Walsall, Norwich City and Watford.[4] Although best known as a centre half, he was also capable of playing in the forward line and, while playing as an inside-left, he scored twice for an English League XI against a British Army XI in 1921[6] In 1926 he also had a brief spell playing for Brooklyn Wanderers, making 7 appearances in the American Soccer League.[7]

Irish international

During the years O'Brien played international football, there were, in effect, two Ireland teams, chosen by two rival associations. Both associations, the Northern Ireland – based IFA and the Irish Free State – based FAI claimed jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland and selected players from the whole island. As a result, several notable Irish players from this era, including O'Brien, played for both teams. Meanwhile, many sources claim that O'Brien was from Kilcock, Co.Kildare. But although he may well have had family there, it has been established by the programme editor at Brentford FC (a former club) that he was born in Ushaw Moor, Co.Durham. There is speculation that he may have concocted the story about Kilcock in order to be eligible to represent the two Irish Associations. (A parent or grandparent was not sufficient to qualify in those days, it had to be birthplace.)[8]


Between 1921 and 1927, while playing for Queens Park Rangers, Leicester City and Hull City, O'Brien made 10 appearances for the IFA XI.[9][10] He made his international debut on 2 February 1921 at Windsor Park in a 2–0 defeat against Scotland.[9] His teammates on the day included Bill Lacey and Louis Bookman. On 13 February 1926, on his ninth appearance, he helped the IFA XI to a 3–0 win against Wales. This was the only time O'Brien played in a winning IFA XI. He made his last appearance for the IFA XI on 19 April 1927 in a 2–2 draw with Wales.[7]


Between 1927 and 1932 O'Brien also made 4 appearances for the FAI XI.[9] O'Brien was playing for four different clubs – Derby County, Walsall, Norwich City and Watford – when he won each of his four FAI caps. He made his debut for the FAI XI on 23 April 1927, four days after he made his last appearance for the IFA XI. Despite the FAI XI losing 2–1 in the friendly against Italy B at Lansdowne Road, O'Brien was noted for his performance. The game also saw him, together with, Tommy Muldoon, Harry Duggan and Joe Kendrick, become one of the first four English League based players to represent the FAI XI. He subsequently played twice for the FAI XI against Belgium in 1929 and 1930, helping them to 4–0 and 3–1 victories respectively. He won his last cap for the FAI XI on 5 May 1932 against the Netherlands. The now veteran O'Brien put in a commanding performance as he captained a young FAI XI that included Paddy Moore, Alex Stevenson and Jimmy Kelly to a 2–0 win.[6][11]

Coaching career

After retiring as a player O'Brien became a coach, managing Queens Park Rangers between 1933 and 1935.[9][10] He led the club to fourth place in Third Division South in the 1933–34 season. However a poor season in 1934–35 led to his dismissal. After a spell as assistant manager at Brentford, O'Brien then took charge at Ipswich Town on 29 May 1936.[9] He became the club's first professional manager and during the subsequent 1936–37 season they made their professional debut in the Southern League and finished as champions. In later years O'Brien worked as a coach for Middlesex FA.[12][13]



Ipswich Town


  1. Mick O'Brien at WorldFootball.net
  2. "The lure of promotion. Leicester City". Athletic News. Manchester. 13 August 1923. p. 6.
  3. "The First Cork City FC – Cork Past & Present". www.corkpastandpresent.ie. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  4. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 October 2016. Retrieved 3 June 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. The Boys in Green: The Fai International Story: Sean Ryan: 9781851589395: Books – Amazon.ca. ASIN 1851589392.
  6. The Boys in Green – The FAI International Story (1997): Sean Ryan
  7. Jcd (18 August 2007). "Mick O'Brien". Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  8. https://www.oncloudseven.com/170-mick-obrien/ [bare URL]
  9. "O'Brien Mick Image 1 Hull City 1926". Vintage Footballers. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  10. Wayfarer (6 May 1933). "Gossip About Sport". The Middlesex County Times. London. p. 13. Retrieved 22 September 2019 via British Newspaper Archive. ... Michael O'Brien, the Irish international centre-half, will make in his new job as manager of Queen's Park Rangers. ... He was capped ten times by Ireland between 1921 and 1927.
  11. "Statistics: Republic of Ireland [Powered by tplSoccerStats]". www.soccerscene.ie. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  12. Macey, Gordon (1993). Queens Park Rangers – A Complete Record. The Breedon Books Publishing Company Limited. ISBN 1-873626-40-1.
  13. "Pride of Anglia - Ipswich Town Football Club". prideofanglia.com. Retrieved 24 December 2018.