THERE is an old line of a song that runs “you don’t know what you’ve got 'til it’s gone.” Those words are certainly fitting for the late Eddie O’Connell of Glanmire, who recently passed away.
Well known for his haulage business, in recent years Eddie found even more success with a horse called Un De Sceaux.
Eddie, born three miles from Buttevant in north Cork, grew up to marry the love of his life, Kay in 1970.
Blessed with four sons; John, Paul, Eamon, and Colm, Eddie set up home in Glanmire before buying one truck that enabled him to support his family. The work ethic of Eddie was unbelievable and to come from one truck to the empire he built could only be done by sheer determination.
“There was no airs or graces with my dad it was all about getting out of bed and doing a hard day’s work and thankfully my three brothers and I have the same attitude,” said his son Colm O’Connell.
Sport was the only interest beyond family and work in Eddie’s life.
In the words of Colm he would go from a Junior B game in Ballynoe to a senior hurling match the following day as all he wanted to see was that small ball being pucked.
As the business grew Eddie’s interest with his local Sarsfields formed a great partnership and since 1989 he has been the club’s main sponsor probably the longest within the GAA fraternity.
“My father always had great insight as Glanmire began expanding with houses and when he saw chimneys of new houses surrounding the area he told Sars they had to be prepared.
“Witnessing young players getting involved in the GAA was what Eddie loved and his commitment and generosity to Sars was not about getting recognition,” added Colm.
In 32 years Eddie was the main man in the construction of some incredible facilities at the club something the family will now continue to do in his memory.
“His generosity to the GAA, in general, knew no bounds and we will never know some of the kind gestures he made over his lifetime but that was Eddie faithful to the last.”
The other sport that Eddie truly loved was racing and over the years he was deeply involved.
“He loved point-to-pointers as in those days we would deal a lot with Trevor Horgan and Liam Burke but with the prizemoney lower it was time for us to move up a level.
“Eddie had a new plan and on the advice from Trevor we decided it was time to take a trip up to see Willie Mullins.”
The first horse that Eddie got was Up Ou That and then Mullins advised them to purchase Turban a horse that had amassed decent prizemoney in France.
O’Connell Snr now had the taste for the action.
“Willie, to be honest, is unbelievable and his first agreement with Eddie was drawing the line in that Eddie looked after his own logistics business and he would do the training and make the decisions on the horse front.”
In the months that followed Eddie kept ringing Willie asking him had he found a horse yet and eventually the call came that a horse had become available.
The horse in question was Un De Sceaux and Willie always spoke straight to us in relation to all horses.
The horse was a bit headstrong and it wasn’t until the following February in 2013 did he eventually get on a racecourse.
There were great times ahead for the O’Connell family but there was also sadness that saw Eddie diagnosed with Alzheimer’s that would restrict the glory days with his prize asset.
Sadly Eddie wouldn’t get the same enjoyment during the incredible era of Un De Sceaux but as Colm explained many offers had to be turned down.
“We were offered a lot of money to sell, the type of money that few people in the sport would have refused but we always thought he wasn’t ours to sell and to the present day the people that wanted to buy him have the utmost respect for us.”
Indeed over the years Un De Sceaux became a household name in Cork and Ireland but his admiration spread to the UK where he was given standing ovations at Cheltenham, Ascot and Sandown where he enjoyed some incredible successes.
“He was a Cork horse and a Glanmire horse as when you have a horse like this you come of mass on a Sunday and all you are asked “how’s the horse” such was his popularity.
“You could be dead yourself and they still wanted to know how the horse is as people related to him because we’re ordinary people and he was the ultimate people’s horse.”
The O’Connell family is indebted to Bernard Geoghegan who cared for Eddie during his illness.
“I haven’t the words to thank Bernard as the time he put into caring for our father was simply incredible and in the end making sure that he kept his dignity to the end was very important to us.”
The O’Connell family are also paid tribute to St Luke’s who gave Eddie exceptional care during his time at the home.
Eddie was the second youngest of six boys and with four sons of his own, the female gender was nowhere to be seen with the exception of mother Kay.
“My father was one six boys and then he had four sons but where we live the Bennett family had seven lads so it must have been the water in Glanmire.”
Eddie’s brothers Jerry, Andy, John, and Charlie were at the graveside but Frank in Australia sadly was unable to make the funeral due to the pandemic.
As the remains of Eddie O’Connell departed from the Glounthaune Church the travelling party of supporters of Un De Sceaux gave him a guard of honour as they applauded him to his place of rest at Little Island cemetery.
In summing up the life of Eddie O’Connell; he was a caring, hardworking man whose love for his family was very evident leaving a legacy that all started with just one truck.
It was fitting his prize asset Un De Sceaux would be summed up by Colm O’Connell.
“They were made for each other as the horse was sound right to the end of his career before one injury ended it.
“Eddie was never a man to get a cold or flu, always positive, gung ho and intent on getting on with life. They were both made of absolute iron.”
Fitting words to a wonderful father. Thanks for the memories Eddie.