Eddie O'Connell made a lasting impact on Sars hurling and Cork racing

Tributes have poured in for the owner of O'Connell Transport, who enjoyed great success through county hurling titles and famous racehorse Un De Sceaux
Eddie O'Connell made a lasting impact on Sars hurling and Cork racing

The late Eddie O'Connell of O'Connell Transport, sponsors of Sarsfield's, with the club's four recent county championship winning captains: Kieran Murphy, 2008; Alan Kennedy, 2010; Joe Barry, 2012; Tadhg Óg Murphy, 2014.

EDDIE O'Connell is synonymous with sporting success in East Cork.

When Sarsfields made a breakthrough in 2008 to land the Cork senior hurling title, the first of four in a period of unprecedented success, the company logo of O'Connell Transport was splashed across the club geansaís. 

The O'Connell's distinctive colours were also associated with high achievement in the field of racing, with the beloved horse Un De Sceaux landing 10 Grade One victories before his retirement.Tributes poured in when it was confirmed the prominent businessman had passed away, locally and nationally.

Eddie O'Connell of the O'Connell group with all his grandchildren sporting the colours of his horse Un De Sceaux, in 2015. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Eddie O'Connell of the O'Connell group with all his grandchildren sporting the colours of his horse Un De Sceaux, in 2015. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Such was his commitment to the Sars' cause that in 2020 when they upgraded their astro facility it was named 'The Eddie O'Connell All-Weather Complex'. In that regard, his legacy will live on as long as sliotars are pucked in the thriving club in Riverstown.

A club statement summed up the mood. 

"A real sense of sadness has descended over Sarsfields Hurling Club with the news of the passing of Eddie O'Connell, our friend and Club Sponsor for over 30 years. 

"Sarsfields Hurling Club are honoured to have shared a tremendous sponsorship partnership with Eddie and The O'Connell Group which commenced back in 1989. 

For Eddie, this sponsorship was never about publicity or winning trophies, simply a recognition and support for the voluntary efforts of our members who continue to provide training and playing opportunities for our players of all ages. 

"Having endured some lean years, we were all naturally delighted when in 2008 Kieran 'Fraggy' Murphy collected the Sean Óg Murphy trophy for the first time since 1957. 

"Since then, further senior, U21, junior B, minor and underage county titles at all grades have followed, all proudly carrying the O'Connell Group name on the jersey.

"More recently Eddie's support and contribution to Sarsfields was recognised, when our new upgraded All-Weather facility was named 'The Eddie O'Connell All-Weather Hurling Complex'.

Marc Sheehan, Cork County Board, addressing the large turnout for the official opening of the Eddie O'Connell All-Weather Hurling Complex. Picture: Mike English
Marc Sheehan, Cork County Board, addressing the large turnout for the official opening of the Eddie O'Connell All-Weather Hurling Complex. Picture: Mike English

"From humble beginnings, Eddie grew and developed his business The O'Connell Group into the strong and vibrant organisation it is today. Since its inception, Eddie has proved to be an exceptional employer and friend to so many employees from our local community.

"Any tribute to Eddie would not be complete without reference to his other sporting love of horse racing, coupled with his legendary horse, Un de Sceaux. The energy and excitement generated by Un de Sceaux in the locality has been truly amazing, the highlights of course being his famous Cheltenham victories.

"Sarsfields Hurling Club would like to extend our sympathy to Kay, John, Paul, Eamon, Colm and the extended O'Connell family on Eddie's passing.

"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis."

Un De Sceaux finished outside the first two just once in 21 completed runs over fences, the majority of which were in Grade One company, and was a dual Cheltenham Festival winner under the tutelage of champion trainer Willie Mullins.

Un De Sceaux ended his career having won 23 of 34 races under rules and more than £1,500,000 in prize money, as well as taking part in Cheltenham Festivals, winning the Arkle in 2015 and the Ryanair in 2017.

Eddie's son Colm explained to The Irish Examiner that his father "loved his racing".

“He had the racing bug for as long as I can remember, the late '80s, early '90s would have been the start of it," he said. "For over a decade we had horses with Michael Hourigan and Enda Bolger, with various success. We won races with both, Enda had a nice few winners for us in point-to-points and so did Mike.”

Eddie clicked with trainer Willie Mullins and that led to the purchase of Un De Sceaux in France eight years ago.

“All Eddie said to Willie was I’m looking for a festival horse," Colm said. "That was the criteria. He delivered in spades on that. Magic.”

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