Tributes flow following death of senior Irish handicapper Noel O'Brien

The Irish racing community was united in mourning on Tuesday as the Turf Club's senior National Hunt handicapper Noel O'Brien died at St James's Hospital in Dublin following a long illness at the age of 57.

O'Brien underwent surgery for esophageal cancer six months ago and had been in the hospital's intensive care unit ever since. He died after complications arose in recent months following the surgery.

Tributes flowed on Twitter following the news on Tuesday morning, with the Racing Post's Lee Mottershead describing him as a man with "an enormous passion for jump racing".

"Even a passing hello made you feel a bit better about life – although he generally made sure he stopped for a chat," Mottershead wrote. "Noel was a lovely man of the very highest order."

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, tweeted: "A light went out in Irish racing overnight with the passing of Noel O’Brien. A gentleman who always had time for people. Popular in a job where that is not easy. Passionate about National Hunt racing. A huge loss to his family, to racing and to his wide circle of friends."

Bellewstown racecourse also paid tribute on social media, posting on Twitter: "A wonderful man, with a heart as big as a house, a personality like no other – we extend deepest sympathy to his family & many friends."

Fairyhouse racecourse, also on Twitter, added: "So sad news to hear of the passing of Noel O'Brien on the run-up to Christmas. He was a gentleman and was always there to help anyone in this sport. To his family and huge circle of friends, everyone at Fairyhouse sends their deepest sympathy."

O'Brien joined the staff of the Turf Club in 1977 and was appointed senior handicapper in 1995.