Paying tribute in the Racing Post to the well-known Corkman, who was 86, Florida Pearl’s trainer, Willie Mullins, said that he was “a larger-than-life character who enjoyed his racing and his many big race wins while always taking defeats on the chin”.
“He was always very enthusiastic and forthright in his views,” Mr Mullins said.
Mr O’Leary opened O’Leary Insurance with just three staff in 1961 and turned it into a highly-successful business that now operates at nine locations around the country, employing more than 200 staff.
He owned a number of racehorses but Florida Pearl brought him the most success, winning twice at the Cheltenham Festival and also winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown four times and a King George at Kempton.
Mr O’Leary was capped three times for Ireland at rugby and was a lifelong member of Cork Constitution Rugby Club of which he was a former president.
The son of a doctor, he had spoken about how his father was the first to scale the flag pole at University College Cork, then Queen’s College, to take down the flag and replace it with a tricolour while wearing an Irish kilt.
Mr O’Leary, who twice skippered a boat in the Irish Admiral’s Cup team and was a member of the world’s oldest yacht club, the Royal Cork Yacht Club, passed away peacefully on Saturday in Marymount Hospice after a battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife Violet and two children Frances and Anthony.
His removal takes place at 7.30pm tonight from Temple Hill Funeral Home, Boreenmanna Rd to St Brigid’s Church, Crosshaven.