Doyen of racing journalists dies, aged 81
RACING:Tony Sweeney, one of Ireland’s best known and respected racing journalists, and a renowned historian of Irish racing, has died. He was 81.
After suffering a heart attack in Dublin recently, he passed away in St James’s Hospital in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Tributes from some of the leading names within racing were paid yesterday including from champion trainer Aidan O’Brien who described Tony as “a man of a lifetime”.
O’Brien said: “Tony was a very kind man, incredibly knowledgeable, and was a man of great integrity. It’s very sad to hear of his passing.”
Another top trainer, Dermot Weld, said Tony’s knowledge of racing was encyclopaedic. “He really has been an encyclopaedia for racing in Ireland,” Weld said. “He was a man of tremendous ability and great trust. I regarded him as the doyen of racing journalists. He had great credibility and he was a man with a great love for Irish racing. He will be sadly missed.”
Horse Racing Ireland’s chairman Denis Brosnan said Sweeney made a huge contribution to recording the history of Irish racing, and HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh also paid tribute.
“A true gentleman, he was the undisputed oracle on Irish racing history. His knowledge of Irish racing was unparalleled and the Sweeney Guide to the Irish Turf, which he published with his late wife Annie in 2002, is the definitive record of the history of Irish racing,” he said.
Tony Sweeney’s work for The Irish Times had been a feature of the racing pages since 1998, with his “Tony’s Two” tips panel underneath each race a popular aid to punters trying to find their next winner. But his insight into the sport, and his vast collection of statistical records going back over 250 years, meant he was widely regarded as racing’s unofficial historical curator.
In 2002, the near 650-page Sweeney Guide To The Irish Turf 1501-2001 was published. He assembled it with his late wife Annie, and bookmaker Francis Hyland. “Tony wanted a statistical record for Irish racing like they have in Britain. He felt it was important to record the history of racing here,” Hyland said.
“He told me he bought at auction what he discovered to be probably the only complete collection of racing calendars in Ireland which JP McManus subsequently purchased. It means we have a comprehensive record of racing here going back to 1751,” he added.
However, Tony’s interest extended beyond racing. He produced a definitive work on Irish Stuart Silver and also wrote on the history of the printed word in Ireland. In 2001 he was conferred with a doctorate in literature for published work by the National University of Ireland.