Conor O'Neill To Replace Retiring Dick O'Sullivan as Punchestown Undergoes Management Restructure
Punchestown Racecourse today announced that Dick O’Sullivan will step down as General Manager following a 16 year term that has transformed the racecourse.
During his tenure, the Tralee native has led Punchestown back from the brink of closure to what is now a thriving, profitable and reputable business. When O’Sullivan entered Punchestown as interim manager, the first development programme had recently completed however, financial difficulties, the loss of the 2001 Festival due to foot and mouth along with drainage issues had left the racecourse in turmoil. The options at the time were simple, implement a radical rescue plan supported by Kildare Hunt Club members or face closure. The early stages of Dick’s involvement were tempestuous at best with a series of complex negotiations followed by a Public Accounts Committee Hearing at the racecourse.
It was a baptism of fire for O’Sullivan but his arrival heralded a new era at the track where political stability, trust and support from all stakeholders was soon part of the fabric of working life. What commenced as a six month crisis management position soon evolved into a 16 year full time role in a place Dick quickly grew to love.
During his tenure, he has overseen the extension of the festival from four days to five, prize fund increases to over €3 million and attendance records broken year after year. The culmination of O’Sullivan’s leadership was the recent completion of the capital development plan and the construction of the new Hunt Stand. Renovation and building works carried out at the home of Irish national hunt racing over the last two years leaves the famous Kildare venue in a strong position for generations to come. Dick O’Sullivan has overseen the transformation of an ailing business to what Willie Mullins described as “the best racecourse in the world” in advance of the 2018 Festival.
In recognition of his contribution to Punchestown, Dick will remain in a newly created executive role as President of Blackhall Racing and will continue to be involved in the day to day running of the business.
Richie Galway will maintain a part time role as Racing Manager but will take on a more permanent position in Commonstown Racing to support the expansion and success achieved by Jessie, Kate and his wife Emma.
Richie Galway commented “I am excited to be joining and supporting a hugely exciting business in Commonstown but it’s been a difficult decision to take a step back from Punchestown which I have enjoyed so much for the past 20 years. I have been privileged to work with the team here and will continue to support in any way I can. On a personal level, Dick has been a phenomenal leader, mentor and friend throughout his time and I wish him well in his retirement although I think that will mean he plans to be in Punchestown 3 days a week instead of 5!”
Dick O’Sullivan commented “During my 16 years at Punchestown, Richie Galway has been my right hand man. He has proven to be an outstanding asset to young vibrant team and the track is a testament to Richie’s dedication. The board agreed unanimously that he was the logical successor, however family is the strongest bond that there is and Richie has decided to join a vibrant and successful team in Commonstown. I am delighted that he will be staying in the vital role of Racing Manager to continue to support our team at Punchestown”.
O'Sullivan continued “Along with Richie, I have been very lucky to work with the best team of people anyone could ever wish to have and all that’s been achieved throughout my time is really due to their ability and hard work. The board are keen that my successor should be from within to maintain the unique dynamism that exists and we are so fortunate to have Conor O’Neill who was recently elected as Chairman of AIR available to fill the position. He has a wealth of experience in the industry and is also a former manager of Limerick Racecourse”.
Commenting on the restructure, chairman of Blackhall Racing Company, David Mongey said“On behalf of the board of Blackhall and the members of Kildare Hunt Club I can’t thank Dick enough for the enormous impact he has had on Punchestown. In Punchestown’s 200 year history not many people, if any, have contributed as much to the racecourses success as Dick has and it has been a privilege working with him throughout that time. I would also like to congratulate Conor O’Neill on his appointment and we are delighted to be in a position to have such a seamless transition and while he has big boots to fill, he has everyone’s full support and I have no doubt that Conor and the team will continue the good work done over the past number of years”.