‘Never be the likes of him again’ – Noel Cawley leaves a lasting legacy

  • 30 June 2023, 16:43

An old Irish sean-fhocail says “Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann”, meaning there will never be the likes of him again. So true is the sean-fhocail in the context of Dr. Noel Cawley.

While Noel led the Irish Dairy Board, now Ornua, owner of the world famous Kerrygold brand for 18 years, but was always passionate about sport horses.   He managed to blend the Kerrygold success with horses during Kerrygold’s fantastic sponsorship of the Dublin Horse show during the 1990s, which played an immense role in bringing the Dublin Horse Show and Irish horses to a worldwide TV audience.

Noel applied the strong scientific principles he acquired during his primary degree in Science from University College Galway (now University of Galway) and the principles gained in his PhD from University College Dublin to both his work in Kerrygold and equally to his passion for sport horses. His command of equine genetics was remarkable.

Chairman of the Board of Directors of Horse Sport Ireland Michael Dowling said: “I’ve had the privilege of knowing Dr. Noel Cawley over the past 45 years including during his tenure leading the Irish Dairy Board and his chairmanship of Teagasc.

“Throughout his life from his early years in Gurteen, Sligo, Noel was always passionate about his horses and his family. He used every opportunity possible to promote Irish equine breeding, including the very successful and famed Kerrygold sponsorship of the Dublin Horse Show by the Irish Dairy Board.

“The association between Kerrygold and the RDS was something Noel was always very proud of. In more recent years, Noel was so passionate, energetic and proud of the young sport horses that he was now breeding with his daughter Lisa.  On behalf of the Board of Horse Sport Ireland, I offer my deepest sympathies to Noel’s wife Anita, his daughters Lisa and Claire and to his brother John along with Noel’s family and wide circle of friends.”

Chief Executive of Horse Sport Ireland Denis Duggan said: “I’ve had the honour to get to know Noel during my tenure as CEO over the past 18 months. His command of equine genetics, his energy and passion for horses and his desire to always seek to improve the overall equine herd through the application of science was inspiring.

“Noel had a brilliant mind and was a staunch supporter of the Irish sport horse industry, both personally and professionally. He led in many aspects of the agrifood-sector and his reach spans beyond horses – however sport horses were never off his mind. From everyone in Horse Sport Ireland we extend our deepest sympathies to Anita, Lisa, Claire, to Noel’s brother John and the wider Cawley family.

Noel Cawley and Tangerado (ISH), a colt by Tangelo Van De Zuuthoeve out of Cruise Leaf (ISH) by Cruising (ISH), after being named 2020  Horse Sport Ireland Champion Sport Horse Show Jumping foal

Head of Breeding, Innovation and Development with Horse Sport Ireland, Dr. Sonja Egan, in paying tribute to Dr. Cawley said: “Not only did Dr. Cawley lead an international brand in Kerrygold but he is highly regarded all over Europe for breeding gold standard sport horses. Noel was an avid supporter of young horse programmes and schemes, especially those that encouraged all breeders to raise the genetic quality of the national equine herd.

“His support for young horses also extended to young riders, and many of the best young riders we see today have piloted horses bred by Noel over the years. We offer our deepest condolences to his family at this time.”

In 2022, Leak Stack partnered Laurina (ISH), daughter of Rincarina (ISH), to take the coveted five-year-old RDS Flexible Championship and five- and six-year-old Irish Breeders Classic final. More recently the mare has qualified for the six-year-olds at the RDS class alongside her Dr. Cawley-bred stablemate BP Casablanca (ISH).

Dr. Cawley-bred many household names such as Golden Exchange (ISH), by Cruising out of Ballinakill Clover (ID) by Clover Hill (ID), an Irish Grand Prix winner who topped the RDS six-year-old final and a full sister to his Nations Cup horse Cruise on Clover (ISH). He is also the renowned breeder of Ballypatrick Flamenco (ISH), Rincarina (ISH) and Solerina (ISH) and the three nations cup horses; Mullaghdrin Gold Rain (ISH), Mullaghdrin Touch (ISH) and Touchable (ISH) – to name but a few.

One of his self-proclaimed favourites is the 16-year-old Rincarina (ISH), by Cruising out of Diamond Ballerina (ISH) by the Irish Draught stallion Diamond Lad, who won the RDS six-year-old final, nine Irish Grand Prix classes and international competitions in Italy and Belgium.

She is a full sister to the 1.60m Grand Prix winner Solerina (ISH), and her foal by For Pleasure was the 2019 Horse Sport Ireland Foal Champion. This was closely followed by his 2020 HSI Champion Show Jumping foal Tangerado (ISH), a colt by Tangelo Van De Zuuthoeve out of Cruise Leaf (ISH) by Cruising (ISH).

Noel will be truly missed by all who knew him in the equine community. We will not see his likes again. “Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.”