Tributes pour in after death of legend Patsy Byrne

Tributes have come from throughout the racing and greyhound racing world for Patsy Byrne, who died suddenly yesterday morning.

Tributes pour in after  death of legend  Patsy Byrne

The legendary Byrne saw his colours carried to victory by White Star Line in the Kerry National at the recent Listowel festival.

A native of Duagh in north Kerry, only about five miles from Listowel, Byrne divided his time between his home village and Surrey in England.

White Star Line was trained by Dessie Hughes, himself currently recovering from serious illness, while earlier in the year Byrne’s Tominator, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, won the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle.

Hughes said: “I can’t believe it, this is totally out of the blue. He was a great character and was at Listowel to see White Star Line win, which was fantastic for him.

“He was a great man, who loved his horses and dogs and anything to do with sport really. He will leave an enormous gap for everybody that had anything to do with him.’’

O’Neill tweeted: “We have been hit with some really sad news today, that our great friend Patsy Byrne has died suddenly. He was a very special person. Bridget and her family are very much in our thoughts.”

Champion jockey Tony McCoy was another to pay tribute on Monday morning, tweeting: “Sad news about Patsy Byrne, a great man and friend. Big loss to racing.”

McCoy’s fellow champion jockey Richard Hughes, who rode Byrne horses for Richard Hannon, said: “A great man sadly will be missed Patsy Byrne.”

Jockey Wayne Lordan remembered a good association he struck up with the Byrne-owned Tolpuddle back in 2004.

He said: “It’s very sad news to hear and my thoughts are with his family.

“Tolpuddle won the Irish Lincolnshire and I won a couple of Listed races on him.

“Patsy was a true gentleman. He loved his racing and he loved his dogs.”

Bookmaker Eric Browne, who is also the chairman at Listowel, admitted to being “devastated’’ at the news. “I was friends with Patsy for a long time, but we became very close over the last twenty years. Indeed my son, Berkie, was even closer to him.

“I really don’t know what to say, he was an extraordinary man. There is no knowing what the people of north Kerry, and all of Kerry, owe to Patsy. He gave everyone a start in England.’’

Byrne was probably even better known in greyhound racing circles, enjoying arguably his best day when training Ballinderry Flash to land the English Derby in 1991.

What was notable about Ballinderry Flash, of course, is that he was co-owned by Byrne and Prince Edward of the British Royal family. Another of his greyhounds was Irish Derby winner Cool Performance.

Patsy was a huge coursing enthusiast and with great friend and legendary trainer Pa Fitzgerald plundered most of the top prizes around the country. Pride of place goes to his three Irish Cup winners — Castle Pines, Sandy Sea and Castlemartyr. He also took great delight in winning the Derby at Clonmel with Big Interest.

He was chief executive of construction and engineering-company, Byrne Group plc, which was founded by himself and his brother, Johnny.

The company was race sponsors at the Cheltenham festival and involved in the construction of the Centre and Number One courts at Wimbledon. They also played a part in projects such as the Olympic Stadium and the Emirates Stadium.

Close friend, Sean Bourke, who trained Cool Performance to win the Irish Derby for Byrne, paid tribute to him.

Said Bourke: “We’re all in shock. I met him 30 years ago and we’ve been great friends ever since. We were talking only last week, he was in great form after his win in Listowel and it’s early for him to be passing this world.’’

Continuing Bourke said: “He was the straightest person I’ve ever dealt with. You talked straight to Patsy and he’d talk straight to you.

“He loved his dogs and was a great sponsor over here (Ireland). He was a director at Clonmel and one of the biggest investors, without him the game wouldn’t have survived.”

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