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Paddy Walsh to retire as Chief Executive of the Association of Irish Racecourses

After two decades at the helm of the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR), Paddy Walsh is set to step down from the role of Chief Executive of AIR early next year. Although Mr. Walsh was officially due to retire in November of this year, at the request of the board, he has agreed to remain on until the end of March 2023 to ensure that a number of key projects are completed prior to his departure and that a smooth handover to the incoming CEO takes place. 

AIR is an independent, not-for-profit entity which represents those who own and operate Ireland’s twenty-six racecourses nationwide. As a chartered accountant with extensive industry knowledge and experience of the horse racing industry, Walsh was very well placed for the CEO appointment in 2003 following the retirement of his predecessor, Frank Smith. Previously, he had worked in accountancy practice in the private sector prior to serving sixteen years in various roles within the racing industry from Financial Controller of the Racing Board to Group Company Secretary of the Irish Horseracing Authority and of its successor, Horse Racing Ireland.

Walsh commented, “I will be officially retiring on March 31st, 2023.   In the interim, there are a few months of important work ahead of us. In order to find the best possible candidate for the position, we have decided to make this announcement sooner rather than later and get the recruitment process started well in advance of my departure.”

Following receipt of proposals from executive recruitment firms, Principal Connections – executive search ( has been appointed by the Association of Irish Racecourses to handle the search for their next Chief Executive. Principal Connections is part of Agilium Worldwide LLC, ranked one of the world’s top global executive search groups. It is intended that the position will be advertised in the media and on the AIR website in the coming weeks.

Conor O’Neill, Chairman of AIR commented, “We have appointed a top executive search firm to assist us in the recruitment process and more details will be released in relation to the job in time. Today’s announcement is about Paddy Walsh’s retirement and I want to acknowledge the remarkable contribution he has made to the association during his tenure as Chief Executive. A career which spanned many years where his intrinsic knowledge, experience and expertise was invaluable in the representation of our 26 wonderful racecourses which he did with the utmost professionalism. It has been my pleasure to have served alongside him during my time as Chairman and on behalf of the entire board, the executive and our membership, past and present, we are most grateful for his dedication and commitment over the last two decades. I wish Paddy a well-earned, healthy and enjoyable retirement when the time does come!”

Mr. Walsh commented “I have been fortunate to have enjoyed a long and successful career doing a job that I love in an industry that Ireland competes well in on the world stage and I have met and worked with some amazing people throughout my career in racing. Although the role has not been without its challenges over the years, it has been most rewarding. I am very pleased that, due in no small part to the efforts of the various board members and chairmen that I have worked with over the last twenty years, our racecourses are in a healthier state, both financially and in terms of facilities, than they were when I first took over the position.

I’m sure that I will miss the job but my wife, Chris, my entire family and I are very much looking forward to the next chapter and enjoying some down time together.”

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