Saturday 24 February 2018

'An enormous talent' - Racing world in mourning as young jockey dies in crash

Jockey John O'Connor who was killed in a car crash on the Mallow-Killarney road on Saturday, racing at Doneraile 2016
Jockey John O'Connor who was killed in a car crash on the Mallow-Killarney road on Saturday, racing at Doneraile 2016
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Tributes have been paid to a talented young jockey who died in a Cork collision.

John O'Connor (21) died when the car he was driving collided head-on with a coach on the Mallow-Killarney road on Saturday evening.

The collision, which occurred shortly before 6.30pm, resulted in the entire road being closed.

Both vehicles collided some 4km outside Mallow, not far from the Cork Racecourse site.

The circumstances of the collision remain unclear and it is understood weather conditions were difficult at the time.

The young man, the driver and sole occupant of the car, suffered multiple injuries in the collision and died before he could be transferred to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Mr O'Connor was from Lismire, outside Newmarket, in Co Cork. Jockeys at Leopardstown wore black armbands today as a mark of respect for the young athlete, who was rated as one of the most talented young jockeys in Ireland and was tipped as a future point-to-point champion.

He worked with the Irish Horse Racing Academy and was one of the top young jockeys on the Irish circuit.

Multiple tributes were paid to him last night by horse owners, racing fans and fellow jockeys deeply shocked by the news of his untimely death.

Charles O'Connor said the world of Irish horse racing was in mourning.

"What a tragedy. (I was) at Dromahane watching horses being schooled and galloping at 2pm . Disaster within hours. My deepest sympathies to his parents Mary and James , and brother Barry. (He was) unlucky not to have been novice champion point to point rider," he posted on social media.

The jockey is also survived by his sister.

Tom Busteed said Mr O'Connor had "enormous talent".

"Very sorry to here this news, he had ridden some breakers for me in the past, and did it with confidence, and no fear. My condolences to his family and friends," he posted.

Another horse racing fan, Gerry Mangan, said Mr O'Connor was hugely popular and respected around Irish race courses.

"Sleep tight Johnny - I won't forget the spin back from the Cheltenham sales in May. RIP Johnny."

Four people were on the coach involved in the collision. All managed to escape serious injuries.

The coach driver, a middle-aged man, was taken to CUH for assessment as a precautionary measure.

He was being treated for soft tissue injuries and shock.

The man's condition is not understood to be serious.

The three passengers were unhurt and did not require hospital treatment.

All were deeply shocked at the scene.

Mallow Gardaí have now appealed for anyone who may have witnessed the collision to contact them to assist their investigation.

"The stretch of road is currently closed to facilitate a Garda Forensic Collision Examination. Local diversions are in place," a garda spokesman said.

"Investigating gardaí are appealing for witnesses. Anyone with information is asked to contact Mallow Garda Station on (022) 31450, the Garda Confidential Line (1800) 666111 or any Garda Station."

The Office of the Cork Coroner has been notified and a post mortem examination is expected to be conducted at CUH on Monday morning.

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