Talented sailor's finest hour was a testament to positivity and confidence


Freddie Cooney:FREDDIE COONEY, who has died peacefully aged 67, was a successful businessman and sailor whose positive attitude and “can do” spirit was an inspiration to the many people whose lives he influenced in business and sport.

He was a champion sailor in many fleets, but his greatest nautical triumph was when, as commodore, he led the National Yacht Club in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, back on the road to recovery after two fires in the mid-1980s.

At 39, he was the youngest commodore since the foundation of the club in 1870, and also among the very best. His leadership, determination and positivity enabled the club to rise from the ashes, and in later years it prospered under his guidance in the role of trustee of the club.

As commodore, he pioneered changes in the club rules so women could avail of full membership – a revolutionary move at the time and the first sailing club in Ireland to do so.

In business he was innovative and dynamic, skilfully developing a number of enterprises including the Louvre Design Centre, the Door Store, Knobs and Knockers, Liberty of London and, latterly, Fireseal, a firm which has fireproofed many of the landmark buildings in the country.

Cooney was above all a family man whose wife Jo and children Philip, Jonathan and Catherine shared his love of the sea, of life and their adopted home of Dalkey.

The eldest of four children, Frederick (Freddie) Cooney was born at Corrig Road, Dún Laoghaire.

He got early lessons in business from his father, who ran Cooney’s pub of Dún Laoghaire. He attended St Anne’s Montessori school and CBC Monkstown, where he developed a love of rugby – leading to a decade on the wing for Monkstown Rugby Club, of which he was a lifelong member and supporter.

He set up his first business in 1970. In 1988 he began providing specialist fire protection for buildings. Fireseal was a great success and has provided fire protection for buildings such as the Dublin criminal courts, Carton House and the DAA’s new Terminal 2. His legacy in Fireseal is being carried on by his son, Jonathan.

His love of sailing began with an introduction from Michael O’Herlihy, Aidan Brindley and Frank Lemass. He was a naturally talented sailor and sailed Glens, Dublin Bay 21s and 24s before winning the National Championships in his Ruffian Ruffage. In the late 1980s he won back-to-back national titles in the shipman class on Therapi. Also at this time, Cooney was honoured to be elected to the committee of the sail training vessel Asgard II.In recent years he moved into cruisers with Finnegan’s Wake, named in recognition of his favourite watering hole in Dalkey.

In 1987 he and a friend, the then commodore of Howth Yacht Club, Tom Fitzpatrick, were refused planning permission for a marina in Dún Laoghaire. They were ahead of their time. When the members of the National Yacht Club elected him commodore in 1983, he approached the challenge with the same gusto he gave to commerce. In 1984, fire gutted the building and many members wavered about renewing membership. This was his finest hour.

He assembled a small group of like-minded and determined sailors who set about getting plans drawn up for a vastly improved clubhouse. In parallel, he launched a host of innovative funding mechanisms that avoided a reduction in membership.

Cooney’s confidence, positivity, energy and work ethic saw the club through its darkest hour. He made a lasting impression on everyone that he met and is sorely missed by all.

Frederick Cooney: born September 7th, 1943; died October 14th, 2010