O'Neill, Thomas Anthony Paul (‘Tony’) (1946–99), physician and sports administrator, was born 19 June 1946 in Dublin, the eldest in the family of two sons and one daughter of James Edward (Séamus) O'Neill, engineer, and his wife, Johanna Teresa Mary (née Brennan), both of Dublin. Educated at Milltown boys’ national school and De La Salle College, Churchtown, he graduated in medicine from UCD in 1971. He worked for three years in the drug treatment centre at Jervis Street Hospital before joining in 1975 the sports injuries clinic of O'Neill's Sports Medicine Centre, Capel Street, where he practised until 1987.
An enthusiastic footballer from an early age (he usually played in goal), O'Neill was appointed secretary of the UCD Association Football Club in 1966. He was to be appointed honorary secretary of the Irish Universities Football Union on two occasions (1969–79 and 1981–99), and he also served as honorary secretary of the council of UCD's Athletic Union. Subsequently he held various positions within the UCD Football Club, including general manager, medical officer, and treasurer. His achievements for UCD football included election to the League of Ireland, the introduction of a soccer scholarship scheme in the college (1979), and victory in the Football Association of Ireland senior challenge cup (1984), with subsequent participation in the European cup winners’ cup. History was made in other ways, too: when a trip to China in 1976, the first such visit by a club team, coincided with the death of Mao Zedong, O'Neill contributed a series of reports to the Irish Press. During his career he visited all five continents.
O'Neill was appointed press officer of the FAI in 1986 and vice-president of the League of Ireland in 1987. After becoming general secretary of the FAI in 1988 he modernised the administrative structures of the association and upgraded its communication systems. His appointment as general secretary coincided with that of Donie Butler as commercial manager. Together they brought a new dynamism and professionalism to the FAI in the early days of the Jack Charlton (qv) era. During the Republic of Ireland's participation in the 1990 world cup finals in Italy O'Neill obtained match tickets for Irish supporters far in excess of the stipulated allocation.
O'Neill was highly regarded by the governing body of European football and between 1991 and 1999 attended seventy fixtures in twenty-nine European countries as UEFA's match delegate. From May 1990 to October 1999 he was a member of UEFA's committee for the European championship, whose recommendation to double the number of finalists to sixteen took effect in 1996. He also served as an expert adviser to UEFA's media committee (July 1998–October 1999).
On returning to UCD as director of sport in 1990, which post he held until his death, O'Neill introduced a visionary programme of sports scholarships, the expansion of sports facilities, and the encouragement of sport among the student body in general. Elected president of the League of Ireland in 1990, he oversaw the merger between the latter and the FAI in 1995. Three years later the minister for sport appointed him to the independent tribunal on drugs in sport.
O'Neill's hobbies included tennis and the theatre. He was a private man, guarded with strangers, but on football matters eloquent and informative in the company of friends. He died 3 October 1999 in Dublin following a short illness. In November 2000 he was awarded posthumously a special merit award by the FAI, which also named two prizes in memory of him: the Dr Tony O'Neill perpetual trophy and the Dr Tony O'Neill cup. In January 2000 he was admitted (posthumously) to the Texaco sportstars hall of fame, while in June 2000 UCD inaugurated the Dr Tony O'Neill sports person of the year award.