His Goal Was to Turn out for Manchester City but Michael O'Leary Scored for Ryanair Instead; EXCLUSIVE: AS MILLIONAIRE AIRLINE BOSS WEDS AT LAST, HIS FEET ARE STILL FIRMLY ON THE GROUND
Rowe, David, Sunday Mirror (London, England)
WITH pounds 150 million to his name, he is as rich as Mick Jagger and his home is a vast walled estate any rock star would be proud to own.
Dynamic Michael O'Leary made his fortune by pulling Ryanair out of a tail spin and making it Europe's largest low cost airline.
But on a personal level, the sharp-tongued jeans-wearing Chief Executive is to publicity what Richard Branson is to razors. He doesn't do it, so don't ask.
Last week O'Leary was being touted in the UK Press as one of the front runners to succeed Bob Ayling, the British Airways boss forced to quit not least because Ryanair gave him a constant nose bleed in the cheap flights market.
O'Leary is said to be amused by the talk of him heading a company that has long been the butt of his jibes, joking privately: "There's no way they would give that job to a f****** Irishman."
Whether he is offered the job or not, 2000 will be a big year for O'Leary as, at the age of 38, he will finally lose his mantel as Ireland's most eligible bachelor.
Typically, his wife-to-be and the big event have been blanketed in mystery.
But after piecing together the life of the high flier, we can reveal that he will tie the knot on July 1 with Denise Dowling from Dublin.
She is currently employed as secretary to beef tycoon Gerry Purcell - but not for much longer.
The wedding will be a church service in Mullingar, County Westmeath, followed by a lavish reception at O'Leary's Gigginstown House nearby.
A friend of the couple revealed yesterday: "They have been an item since last summer. Michael has deliberately kept Denise out of the limelight because he is so protective of his privacy.
"They have never been photographed together.
"Denise isn't the publicity seeking kind either. She's blonde and very attractive, more in a girl-next-door way than a glamorous model."
O'Leary, who also has an apartment in upmarket Ballsbridge, Dublin, has been preparing the marital home.
He has planning permission for a swimming pool, terrace and leisure complex at the estate.
Because the government recently deemed it an historic building, he gets tax relief on repairs and maintenance.
In return he is obliged to open it to the public.
At Mullingar tourist office the only information available is a single paragraph on the Georgian house stored on computer and visits are by appointment only.
And if you can find the entrance in the labyrinth of lanes, there is no nameplate to tell you that you've arrived at the tycoon's home, though a barking Rottweiller provides a clue.
The O'Learys have long since settled in the Lake District but their roots are in the south.
In a rare insight into his early life O'Leary has said: "I was born a farmer's son in the beautiful countryside of County Cork.
"It was more of an education for my life in business than anything I ever did in college."
When Michael was a toddler the family uprooted to the farming town of Mullingar, where father Ted branched out opening a woollens factory called Tailtann Textiles next to the military barracks and eventually employed 70. …