Val O’Connell's is possibly one of the best known faces in organised Irish racing through his role in the Turf Club (now the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board). Val serves as chief inspector of courses and clerk of the course for half a dozen southern meetings. Perhaps what is less well known is that Val is one the keenest hunting men in these islands.
He has been Field Master of the famed Scarteen Hounds in Co Limerick for almost twenty seasons. I am among those who have attempted to follow him across the country on his grey, and know what a formidable horseman he is. As Field Master, Val is following in the footsteps of the legendary PP Hogan who held the role for many years when Thady Ryan carried the horn. Longtime Scarteen whipper-in Tommy O’Dwyer became young Val’s mentor. “Give the hounds a chance, and never jump into a field until hounds have left it,” was Tommy’s advice, and Val follows it to the letter in his role as Field Master.