A former jockey who earned almost £1million and changed almost 500 winners after becoming football manager.
A promising footballer in his youth, Mick O’Connell played for Nottingham Forest and Celtic.
But he was too small to make it, and a Scottish Giants coach suggested he try racing.
Mick had never ridden a horse but was a natural and quickly became the jockey of choice for trainers.
He traveled the world and found winners – but not everything went smoothly.
An altercation with Joey Barton in Dubai and threats by mobsters to shoot him contributed to some truly wild years in racing.
The relative calm in football and the management of Tadcaster Albion, a non-league player, must be child’s play by comparison.
But it might not have materialized if Mick hadn’t sustained a devastating injury in 2013.
That forced him to retire in the middle of his prime season.
Still, Mick, who hails from County Kildare, Ireland, has plenty of crazy stories from his time in the saddle.
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Mick remembered an encounter with the famous hothead Barton nonleagueyorkshire.com: “I rode for Joey Barton in Dubai and believe it or not, I had a fight with him at night.”
“To be fair he was fine but we were outside in the owner’s bar and his race director spoke up and said something.”
“Like you do, after you’ve had a few beers I told him how it was.
“I never heard from them again!”
That wasn’t the only time Mick’s earlier career came his way, the jockey riding horses also belonged to Sir Alex Ferguson.
He added: “Paul Scholes. Michael Owen. They all owned horses when I rode.”
“Fergie is an absolute gentleman and he lives and breathes for horse racing. I also met Harry Redknapp and he is the same.”
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However, that cannot be said for everyone.
That was especially true on the night Mick feared for his life after riding for some ‘Newcastle gangsters’ as he put it.
Mick recalled: “One day I was driving somewhere and I had two or three rides – but one of them was 1-4 and couldn’t be beat.”
“It weighed a good 20 pounds and this coach, whose name I don’t want to be named, said to me, ‘You can’t win today’.”
“I said, ‘There’s no way he can win unless his leg falls off’.”
“A buddy of mine who’s a steward came up to me and said, ‘Be careful about that.’
“You can bet on horses losing, so the owners, Newcastle gangsters, had put about £100,000 on the horse to lose.”
“Basically, they would have gotten millions.
“I said to my buddy, ‘Thanks for letting me know.'”
“I went out and the horse started and won.
“I went back and the coach was nowhere to be seen. I was driving home and the phone rang and there were these Newcastle boys wanting my address so they could shoot me and break my legs!”
Luckily Mick kept both legs, but his days of racing – and those legendary evenings out – were soon to come to an end.
He was the number 1 driver of John Quinn – the famous Highfield Princess – at the time, but injured his back in a bad crash and never fully recovered.
Mick started playing outside the league in 2015 but has always wanted to move up into management and soon landed a job as boss at Harrogate Railway FC after gaining his first experience with the first-team at Darlington.
He resigned in May of that year after guiding them to the play-off berths two straight years.
There was no promotion and Mick joined Toolstation Northern Counties Eastern League top team Tadcaster last May.
They clinched their first win of the season last weekend – presumably without gangsters watching on the sidelines.
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