Cian O’Connor was born on 12 NOV, 1979 at Temple Road, Dartry, in Dublin – and is the only son of Tadhg O’Connor and Louise [née Mullen]. He has two sisters; Susanna, and Pippa, who is married to TV presenter Brian Ormond. Cian’s grandfather James was born at Ballyhurst between Tipperary Town and Kilfeacle – the townsland is famous for the Fenian incident in 1867.
Cian’s great-grandfather Timothy ‘Tadhg’ Connors was a farmer at Ballyhurst and his wife was Bridget O’Dwyer of Ardlamon [near Ballykisteen], Tipperary Town. The couple’s five children were all born at Ballyhurst; Patrick, Mary, Bridget, James and Kitty [Catherine]. About 1930 the family sold this farm and bought land at Longstone, Cullen, also in Co. Tipperary. They remained there until 1944 when James sold the land and moved to Dublin. He married a Gretta Byrnes and their eldest son Tadhg later married Louise Mullen, daughter of Irish rugby player Dr. Karl Mullen [born in Courtown Harbour, Co. Wexford] who captained Ireland to win the triple crown twice in 1948 and 1949, the grand slam once in 1948, and captained the 1950 British and Irish Lions to New Zealand and Australia.
When Cian O’Connor was very young the family moved to Florida, USA – then to Blessington, Co. Wicklow – and then Johnstown, Co. Kildare. He was educated at Christian Brothers, Naas and Belvedere College in Dublin, alma mater of both his grandfather Dr. Karl Mullen and godfather, rugby legend and businessman Sir Anthony O’Reilly. Encouraged by his father Tadhg O’Connor he took up hunting and according to Tadhg much of his son’s success is due to the courage he developed on the hunting field. “He took to it and was up in front with the pack,” he says. “We had fantastic times with the Louth Hunt,” he also says. At 16 Cian asked Irish Olympic show jumper Lt. Col. Gerry Mullins [born in Croom, Co. Limerick] how he should start off in show jumping and pretty much from then on Mullins became his trainer and mentor. He made him jump in Grade E classes [the lowest in show jumping] until he learned his trade and move up the ranks. That grounding paid dividends and Cian made Ireland’s under-18 team for the European Junior Championships in 1997 at Moorsele, Belgium and he came in fifth place. At the European Young Riders Championships in 2000 at Hartpury, England he was a member of the Irish team that were the silver medal winners – the Irish team was; Ciaran Howley, Robert Power, Cian O’Connor and Neal Fearon. It was in May 2000 the horse Limbani K was bought in Germany [renamed Waterford Crystal as part of a sponsorship deal]. Foaled in 1991, the 16.2 hands high bay gelding Waterford Crystal was the horse Cian O’Connor brought to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. On 27 AUG, 2004 he won the show jumping Olympic gold medal – but sadly things started to go wrong when a few weeks later on October 7 he was informed that his horse tested positive at the Olympic Games and on 3 JUL, 2005 he was officially stripped of his Olympic gold medal even though he was cleared of deliberately attempting to enhance the performance of his horse.
At the Olympic Games in London this year Cian O’Connor was back on the Irish Olympic team – this time with his horse Blue Loyd 12. He bought the German-bred bay gelding as an 11-year-old in November 2011 in Norway. After the qualifying rounds which started on 4 AUG, 2012 Cian finished equal 38th with 12 faults, which put him just outside the top 35. He got into the final day’s jumping after a Swedish horse had to be withdrawn and the two riders ahead of Cian couldn’t compete as only three riders from each nation could take part in the individual final. On Wednesday 8 AUG, 2012 on the final day’s jumping Cian O’Connor finished in third place and claimed the Olympic bronze medal for Ireland. Cian has been a member of over 90 Irish Nation’s Cup teams, has won numerous Grand Prix and competed in two World Championships, three European Championships and two Olympic Games. He was a member of the Irish team that won the Aga Khan Trophy in 2004 and 2008 and has won or jointly won the puissance at Dublin Horse Show four times. Cian is based at Karlswood Stables outside Ashbourne, Co. Meath and is looking ahead to be competing at the next Olympics at Rio 2016.