CONOR O’Neill’s first ever visit to Limerick Racecourse was last October when he attended the awe-inspiring John Thomas McNamara Charity Raceday.
Next month, 25-year-old O’Neill, who worked on a bookmakers pitch at Greenmount Park at the recent student race days, returns to Limerick Racecourse to begin his new role of general manager.
Wicklow native O’Neill is looking forward to the challenge, insisting his ambition is to develop Limerick Racecourse into the prime venue in Munster for agricultural shows and concerts as well as developing the core racing aspect of the business.
Conor O’Neill has packed a lot into the last 10 years career-wise. He joins Limerick Racecourse from his current position as on-course operations manager at Ladbrokes Plc and has also held previous roles in Punchestown Racecourse, Chronicle Bookmakers and Horse Racing Ireland.
“I began my career in the horse racing industry over 10 years ago when I was 15 years of age,” Conor O’Neill explained.
“I started working with Chronicle Bookmakers and Justin Carthy at the time, who were the largest on-course bookmakers in the country. I worked on a pitch for a number of years.
“Our niche at Chronicle was to chase the high profile, big punters. I worked pitches throughout Ireland and UK. The economy was booming. The bets you were laying - it was a different world to now. When you are 15 - it’s a great opportunity. You don’t be long about getting street wise very quickly.
“There is a great buzz working on a pitch in the likes of Cheltenham. It’s Christmas week from a bookmakers’ perspective. Doing it from a young age you get a great insight into the business. It developed me personally.
“I went to college in NUI, Maynooth where I did a Degree in Equine Business. I also spent time in the accounting department of Horse Racing Ireland. Then, I went to Punchestown Racecourse where I was the assistant events manager there. Just over a year ago, Chronicle Bookmakers was acquired by Ladbrokes. I left Punchestown to go back to Ladbrokes Ireland when they acquired Chronicle where I was the on-course operations manager.”
From his time working at Punchestown Racecourse, O’Neill learned about another key element of the horse racing industry.
“My time in Punchestown Racecourse filled me with great excitement. Every day was different. I had the best of both worlds. From a racing point of view, I was obviously heavily involved during the Festivals, looking after the logistics, the event end of the festival. I believe there is ginormous potential in Limerick. I thought it was a fantastic opportunity when the general manager’s role came up. There is so much potential to progress and develop the business, both from a racing perspective and an events perspective, in particular the high scale events that need to be outside of the city but yet the proximity to Limerick city make it an ideal events venue, something I will be looking to progress and develop very strongly with Limerick Racecourse.
“From a racing point of view, there is fantastic racing in Limerick, obviously the four days at Christmas, the student festival, the listed races, the Munster National, from a racing point of view there is a solid foundation. The facilities are state-of-the-art as well which are great.
“My first time at the track was for the John Thomas McNamara fundraiser race day last year. It is a fantastic facility. When you come up the driveway into the track, the setting is unique, one of the most impressive in the country. That was a fantastic fundraising event. It showcased Limerick to everyone. I thought it was an opportunity for me which I have the potential to do a lot with given my experience from both a racing and non-racing point of view.
“Given the location of Limerick track from the point of view of accessibility, I think it can be developed into the prime venue in Munster for the likes of large agricultural shows, concerts and the likes.
“The core business model is racing. One thing I will be trying to do is integrate Limerick Racecourse as much as possible with the local people. I believe it is a fantastic facility and one which Limerick should be very proud. “Providing value for money is a key issue for me. From my experience of travelling racecourses in the UK and Ireland, it is something that is vitally important.”