The sad news came through on Monday of the passing of one of the most important figures in Irish greyhound racing over the past fifty years, Plunkett Devlin.
An owner and great supporter of the sport, he was better known as the man that effectively wrote the book on how to care and look after greyhounds as the country’s most preeminent greyhound vet.
The tales of his healing hands are legendary and the outpouring of respect and love for Plunkett over the past twenty-four hours highlight what a superb vet and even better man he was. He wasn’t born into the sport and much of his youth was devoted to football rather than greyhounds.
In fact, he was talented sportsman, playing football for St Colms in Derry before going on to compete in the Sigerson Cup for UCD. He also played minor, junior and senior football for Tyrone but his football days ended early when it was disclosed that he had broken his back.
Soon after he qualified as a vet, initially caring for all animals but soon tired of that and focused on greyhounds. At this time, he was based in Newry, where he would remain for 18 years before taking on a project in Saudi Arabia for twelve months.
When he returned from the Middle East, he and his wife Maria and their four children settled in Dublin. It was from his Carrickmines base that he performed so many miracles on greyhounds.
Perhaps the most well-known case was with the 1984 Derby champion Dipmac. Owned jointly by Pascal Taggart and Noel Ryan, the Seamus Graham trained star had a wrist problem through the competition but Plunkett Devlin’s healing hands got him through the stake and he excelled in the decider.
The late great, Hall of Fame trainer Seamus Graham always believed that without Plunkett’s artistry, Dipmac would never have been able to land the most coveted prize in greyhound racing.
Sean Bourke feels the same way about Cool Performance, the 2001 Derby champion. Said Bourke yesterday morning, “He was one of the best greyhound vets of all time, just different class. He was also a gentleman. It was so easy to talk to Plunkett and he always seemed to listen. What he did to get Cool Performance through his Derby was unequalled. The dog had two bad hocks but Plunkett was just unbelievable and the dog stood up to the racing.”
These are just two stories of his skill with greyhounds but there are thousands more that will be recanted in the coming days, week and months.
He also passed on many of his skills, aiding the next generation of greyhound vets with Denis Beary, one of Ireland’s very best, studying under Plunkett, while Dessie Fagan also spent time with Plunkett before going on to become one of the top vets in Australia.
Such was the admiration for Plunkett that in 2019, to mark his 80th birthday, the Plunkett Devlin Celebration Open 600 was one of the early season feature races at Shelbourne Park. It was fitting that the final featured some of the very fastest greyhounds in training including Priceless Blake, Ballymac Tas and Skywalker Logan. Less than four months later, the trio would finish first, second and third in the English Derby decider.
Plunkett and his large family were all present on that night at Shelbourne Park and he was very much the star of the show. He has since been back to Shelbourne. In fact, he was on hand in September to witness Born Warrior capture the Derby.
On what was to be his last visit to Shelbourne Park, he was welcomed by so many of his friends, almost playing the role of celebrity in the restaurant. He certainly loved going to the track and being around greyhound racing folk but he also had great success up the field, capturing the 1978 Irish Cup at Clounanna with Castleisland Lad.
He leaves behind a legion of friends and admirers in both codes. And each and every person that ever met him or spent time in his company, both personally or professionally, will describe him as a true gentleman and caring soul. That is a wonderful way to be remembered.
He now joins his beloved wife Maria in the next life. We would like to send our sincerest condolences to his children Sharon, Padraig, Peter and Colin, his daughters-in-law Claire, Lorraine, Sonya and son-in-law Tony, his ten beloved grandchildren, his sister Bernie and brother Tom, extended family and many, many friends.
May He Rest In Peace.
The death has occurred of Oliver Plunkett DEVLIN
Ballsbridge, Dublin / Carrickmines, Dublin / Tyrone / Newry, Down
Oliver Plunkett DEVLIN
DEVLIN Oliver Plunkett (Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 and formerly of Carrickmines, Newry and Greencastle, Co. Tyrone) December 19, 2022. Peacefully surrounded by his loving family. Beloved husband of the late Marie and loving father of Sharon, Padraig, Peter and Colin. Sadly missed by his daughters-in-law Claire, Lorraine, Sonya and son-in-law Tony, his ten adoring grandchildren, his sister Bernie and brother Tom, extended family and many wonderful friends.
Resting on Wednesday afternoon, December 21, from 2 pm, at Rom Massey & Sons Funeral Home, Cranford Centre, Stillorgan Road, D04 X446 (opposite UCD Flyover) with family in attendance from 3:30 pm, prior to removal to the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, arriving at 5 pm. Funeral Mass on Thursday morning, December 22, at 11 am, followed by burial at Kilternan Cemetery Park, Ballycorus Road, Kilternan, Dublin 18. Family flowers only please.
For those unable to attend, the Removal and Funeral Mass may be viewed at: https://donnybrookparish.ie/webcam/
“Rest in peace with your beloved Marie”