Wednesday 22 January 2020

Profile of new champion

New champion jockey Barry O'Neill at Saturday's awards in Clayton Whites Hotel with Brigid Bowe
New champion jockey Barry O'Neill at Saturday's awards in Clayton Whites Hotel with Brigid Bowe

Barry O'Neill, the new point-to-point champion jockey, is a 28-year-old from Ballindaggin who has been building towards this achievement for almost 20 years, since as a young boy he liked nothing better than being in and around the stables of his neighbour, Colin Bowe.

After he left school at 16, he went to work in Paul Nolan's yard at Davidstown for nearly four years where he continued to learn the ropes.

He returned to work for Bowe when he was 20, and he has been there ever since, always riding as an amateur and mostly in point-to-point.

Son of James and Margot, he has two brothers, Alan and Jim, and a sister, Laura. There was not really a big history of horses in the family though ponies were introduced to the children. Apart from Barry, Jim is deeply involved in the horse business, breaking, pre-training, buying and selling.

Barry lives in Kiltealy now with his partner, Brigid Bowe, first cousin of trainer, Colin, and wedding plans are very much on the agenda.

After a slow enough start, Barry took a big step forward when he was the novice riders' champion in both the 2008-'09 and 2009-'10 seasons with 27 and 33 winners. For the next six seasons he was consistently in the very respectable mid-40s.

He really broke through last season when he was involved in a lengthy battle for the title with Jamie Codd and finished second with 59 winners.

This season he has made the running from the start and led the way for more than 30 weeks, finally clinching the cherished title in the final race of the season, with Codd nipping at his heels most of the way.

Colin Bowe and his Milestone Stable remain his anchor and they had 25 winners together this season, and more neighbours, the Doyle brothers from the Monbeg, Ballindaggin, operation, also chipped in.

Another big plank in Barry's campaign was David Christie from Fermanagh, who provided lots of winners for him, including three on that final weekend, two of them on successive days on the prolific mare, Maple Mons. He actually had six wins on the mare during the season and that was vital.

Barry says he is very grateful to all those who entrusted him with mounts during the past nine months and he certainly worked hard, taking 295 rides for the season.

He was a very proud man when receiving the trophy on Saturday night, joining Jamie Codd (2014 and '16) and John A. Berry (1988, a share in 1990, and 1993) as only the third Wexford man to be champion.

Wexford People

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