Michael Terence 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 seventeen 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.
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 ofCeltic. However after failing to make it into the Celtic first team he joined Brentford in December 1914. During theFirst World War, O’Brien served in both the Royal Navy and the Royal Flying Corps.
Between 1919 and 1933, O’Brien went onto 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. 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 In 1926 he also had a brief spell playing for Brooklyn Wanderers, making 7 appearances in the American Soccer League.
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.
Between 1921 and 1927, while playing for Queens Park Rangers, Leicester City and Hull City, O’Brien made 10 appearances for the IFA XI. He made his international debut on 2 February 1921 at Windsor Park in a 2–0 defeat against Scotland. His team mates 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. Between 1927 and 1932 O’Brien also made 4 appearances for the FAI XI. 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. After retiring as a player O’Brien became a coach, managing Queens Park Rangers between 1933 and 1935. 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. 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
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1911–19xx Walker Celtic
19xx–19xx Blyth Spartans
19xx–1914 Celtic 0 (0)
1918–1919 Alloa Athletic (trial)
1919 Norwich City
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)
1921–1927 Ireland 10 (0)
1927–1932 Irish Free State 4 (0)
1921 English League XI 1 (2)
1933–1935 Queens Park Rangers
1935–1936 Brentford (assistant)
1936–1937 Ipswich Town