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Hobby horses: Superfans and their super toys

Billionaires own the football clubs we support, the nags we bet on and the art we covet, writes Donal Lynch

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JP McManus, Dermot Desmond and John Magnier (left)

JP McManus, Dermot Desmond and John Magnier (left)

SPORTSFILE

A nude painting by Amedeo Modigliani, which was owned by John Magnier, sold in 2018 for $157.2m (€131.7m) at Sotheby’s

A nude painting by Amedeo Modigliani, which was owned by John Magnier, sold in 2018 for $157.2m (€131.7m) at Sotheby’s

AFP via Getty Images

JP McManus had the first G650 Gulfstream jet registered in Ireland

JP McManus had the first G650 Gulfstream jet registered in Ireland

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JP McManus, Dermot Desmond and John Magnier (left)

Andy Warhol once said "the glory of the modern world is that the very rich man and the very poor man enjoy the same things. The average person and the millionaire drink the same Coke". And they very often take an interest in the same things. It's just that the scale is often different. Betting on horses vs owning horses. Five-a-side vs investing in a professional team. Visiting a gallery vs donating the art that hangs on the walls. Their interests are our interests, but they are superfans and investors all rolled into one.

Nowhere is this more to be seen than with sport. JP McManus and John Magnier, both steeped in Irish equestrian culture, are also among the most important owners in racing. McManus's many interests are also reflected in his many investments in other sports: Manchester United and Limerick Football Club - last year his huge wealth meant that they did not have to wear any business-promoting logo on their jerseys. He has also thrown funding behind a soon-to-be-opened rugby visitor's centre in Limerick.

Telecoms mogul Denis O'Brien was named honorary president for life at the FAI in 2018; while his longstanding financial contribution to the organisation had, by then, ended, soccer remains his biggest sporting interest. Dermot Desmond last year became a 25pc shareholder in Shamrock Rovers. Investing in a team in such an embattled league might not seem like the most obvious business moves but none of these are strictly investments; they represent the passion and interest of the moguls who make them.