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T.J. O’ Mara (Trainer) Referral – Cork 26 November 2023

The Referrals Committee, Mr. Peter Allen (Chairman), Mr. N.B Wachman and Mr. Noel McCaffrey convened at Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on 17 January 2024 to consider the referral of T.J. O’ Mara, Trainer, by a Senior Racing Official following an incident at Cork Racecourse on 26 November 2023.

On the day, the Raceday Stewards received a report from IHRB Clerk of the Course, Mr. Paul Moloney, regarding an altercation between himself and Mr. T.J. O’Mara, Trainer, as he was coming off the track after the third race, whereby he was both verbally and physically abused by Mr. O’Mara. The matter was referred to the Referrals Committee for further consideration by a Senior Racing Official.

At the Referral Hearing, evidence was heard from Mr. Paul Moloney, Mr. Frank Clune, IHRB Security Officer, Mr. Michael King, IHRB Security Official, Mr. Paul Murtagh, IHRB Head of Raceday Operations and Mr. Matthew Tynan, Mr. O’Mara’s Authorised Representative. Mr. Frank Quirke, B.L. and Ms. Judy Quirke offered evidence as to Mr. O’Mara’s character.

In his evidence, Mr. Moloney stated that long before the incident at Cork, Mr. O’Mara had been harassing him with repeated phone calls including late at night, angry about an incident at Limerick Racecourse, where he is also Clerk of the Course. He stated that the incident involved the fall of Mr. Niall O’Mara, son of T.J. O’Mara. Mr. Moloney explained that he brought the matter to the attention of Paul Murtagh, his line manager, at a fixture at Kilbeggan and informed Mr. Murtagh that he had had to block Mr. O’Mara’s number on his phone.

Mr. Moloney described the incident at Cork Racecourse on 26 November. He stated that after the third race, he was walking back from the track towards the weighroom and saw Mr. O’Mara standing by the Outside Broadcast Units. Mr. Moloney explained that Mr. O’Mara was waiting for him and began shouting and pointing at him. Mr. Moloney stated that Mr. O’Mara then shouted, “Hey you, you nearly paralysed my son”.  Mr. Moloney explained that he asked him to go away and said that he had had enough of his phone calls late at night. At this point, Mr. Moloney stated that Mr. O’Mara grabbed him by his shirt and tie. He reported that he had called Frank Clune on the IHRB radio for assistance and that Damien Skehan, Cork Racecourse foreman, had come on the scene then and that Mr. O’Mara had departed.

Mr. Moloney added that he wished the altercation had never taken place. Mr. Moloney explained that he would prefer to draw a line through the incident and move on and that he would prefer to just receive an apology from Mr. O’Mara and get on with his job.

In his evidence, Mr. Frank Clune, IHRB Security Officer, explained that Mr. Moloney had contacted him on the radio sounding distressed after the incident. He confirmed Mr. Moloney’s shirt and tie looked dishevelled following the interaction. Mr. Clune stated that he advised Mr. Moloney to contact the Gardaí but that Mr. Moloney had said that he’d prefer they were not involved. Mr. Clune explained that he then brought the matter to Mr. Colman Sweeney, IHRB Stipendiary Steward, and an official Stewards Enquiry followed. Mr. Clune added that he immediately rang Mr. Michael King and told him to inform Mr. O’Mara that the Raceday Stewards had called an enquiry and were looking for him.

Evidence was also heard from Mr. Michael King, IHRB Security Official. Mr. King explained how the communication he heard over the radio from Mr. Moloney to Mr. Clune had immediately concerned him. Mr. King stated following instruction from Mr. Clune about the Stewards Enquiry, he was unable to locate Mr. O’Mara and asked his Authorised Representative Mr. Tynan to go to the Stewards Room but didn’t disclose the reasons why as he wasn’t aware of the full details.

In his evidence, Mr. Paul Murtagh stated that Mr. O’Mara had called him on 24 August 2023, claiming the ground at Limerick had been overwatered for the fixture of 27 July 2023 and declared he was holding Paul Moloney responsible for his son’s fall. Mr. Murtagh explained that he had subsequently sought reports from both Mr. Moloney and Limerick Racecourse on the matter and could find no fault with the ground preparation, noting that it was particularly wet month and no watering had taken place. He gave evidence of further conversations with Mr. O’Mara on 1 September 2023 and 15 September 2023 in which Mr. O’Mara had claimed there was a hole in the ground in Limerick, possibly caused by a stake, and accused Mr. Murtagh of interfering with his son’s medical assistance from the IHRB.

Evidence was also heard from Mr. Matthew Tynan, Mr. O’Mara’s Authorised Representative on the day. Mr. Tynan stated that when Mr. King had requested him to contact Mr. O’Mara and advise him he was to attend the Stewards Room he was unaware of the incident that had taken place. Mr. Tynan explained that Mr. King had requested he contact Mr. O’Mara to notify him that he was required at the weighroom. Mr. Tyan explained he called Mr. O’Mara, but that Mr. O’Mara had informed him he had already left the racecourse.

Having considered the evidence, the Referrals Committee were satisfied that Mr. O’Mara was in breach of Rule 272(i) in that Mr. O’Mara had behaved in a manner which is prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horseracing, Rule 272(iii) in that Mr. O’Mara abused, intimidated and physically assaulted an IHRB Official and acted in a threatening and intimidating manner, and Rule 273(xii) in that Mr. O’Mara engaged in violent or improper conduct on a Racecourse.

Having considered his record in this regard, the Committee dealt with Mr. O’Mara’s sanction for the three offences together. They imposed a fine of €10,000 and suspended his licence to train for a period of three years. However, they suspended that portion of the sanction for a period of three years on the strict understanding that if there is any repeat of an offence of this nature or any breach of Rule 272 by Mr. O’Mara in the interim period, the suspension of his licence will come into effect. The Committee also ordered that Mr. O’Mara pay a contribution to the costs of the IHRB of €5,000.

The case was presented by Mr. Frank Crean, B.L., instructed by Ms Clíodhna Guy, IHRB Head of Licensing, Legal & Compliance. Mr. O’Mara was represented by Mr. Remy Farrell, S.C., instructed by Mr. Patrick Kennedy, of Patrick J. O’Meara & Co. Solicitors, Thurles Co. Tipperary.

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