ANDREW McNamara’s love of people, racing and horses was celebrated yesterday at his funeral Mass in Manister, Co Limerick. The 76-year-old trainer passed away on Wednesday morning after a short illness.

Born in Toureen, he was educated at Limerick’s Crescent College before studying veterinary medicine in UCD. “There was only one occupation he was interested in – training racehorses,” said his cousin, Fr Donal McNamara. “He did it all his life and he was gifted at it.”

Boreen Prince’s win in the Arkle Chase at the 1985 Cheltenham Festival was his most famous winner. Desert Lord won him a Kerry National, he won two Irish Lincolns up the Curragh, and good races with Another Row, Rent A Row, Glin Castle and Daraheen Chief, while Yer Man was placed in an Aintree National.

He also got to enjoy many more great days at Cheltenham, watching his sons Andy and Robbie win big races, along with his nephew, the late John Thomas McNamara.

Father figure

Andy and Robbie paid tribute to their father during the ceremony.

Andy said: “What a life it was. A deeply loving man, he was a father figure and mentor to so many people, including his staff and jockeys. Dad lived life more leisurely than most of us and was happier than any of us. He loved racing as much as anyone I knew and glowed with pride after a winner. He was most at home in the owners and trainers at Limerick or Thurles, where he would soak up the gossip.”

Robbie added: “He was old-school, old-fashioned, and stood by his morals. He would always leave you with a smile and a nugget of wisdom.” Robbie said his father enjoyed a night out but would be up at the crack of dawn to see his horses. “One of his sayings was ‘The boys go out at night, the men get up in the morning’. He did things as they were meant to be done and taught us the same. He was always well turned out.”

Boreen Prince was described by Robbie as hardy, classy, honest and tough, just like his trainer. Choking back the emotion, Robbie recalled how, at Cheltenham, the horse had a length to find on Buck House jumping the last but, with Boots Madden on board, he pulled out more to land a brilliant victory for Croom.

Both Andy and Robbie spoke warmly about the special bond between their father and mother, Kathleen, who were together for 43 years. “He was spoiled by her and she was adored by him,” said Andy.

Robbie described his parents as “king and queen, like two love birds in their teens.” He added: “This is the first time Dad has left the party before Mam. There is no more ‘one for the road’. The last one has been had. I tip my hat to you, Mr McNamara, my idol. Dad, I love you and always will.”

Helped trainers

Trainer Tom Hogan was a close friend of the trainer and they served on the council of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association together. He said: “Andrew came on board 25 years ago and he spent many years on the National Hunt fixtures committee. He made sure there were plenty of races for lower grade jumps horses, which was crucial to keeping a lot of small trainers alive. He fought tooth and nail on their behalf.”

Eric McNamara travelled to many IRTA meetings with Andrew. He said: “Andrew was a wonderful person to be associated with. He had his ear to the ground, was level-headed, fair, highly respected and very intelligent. I never heard anyone say a bad word about him. He was a thorough gentleman who was always up for the craic and he will be sadly missed.”

Enda Bolger added: “I rode a couple of winners for him, including a Ladies Cup at Punchestown. He was a great fellow to know and he would put everyone in good form. Everyone in Thurles on Thursday was talking about him and you could just picture him walking in there. It’s a great loss.”

Also among the mourners in the church were trainers Noel Meade, Ted Walsh, John Kiely, Austin Leahy, Andy Oliver, Ross O’Sullivan, Jimmy Mangan and Dessie McDonogh. Barry Geraghty, Davy Russell and Nina Carberry also paid their respects.

Andrew McNamara is survived by his wife Kathleen, daughter Liz and sons Andrew and Robbie.