Ulster road racing star Michael Dunlop has become the third member of the legendary motorcycling family to receive the Freedom of Ballymoney in recognition of his stunning achievements in the sport.
Dunlop was granted the honour by the mayor, Councillor John Finlay, during a ceremony at Ballymoney Town Hall on Friday attended by his family, including mum Louise, grandmother May and brother William, plus distinguished guests, friends, sponsors and dignitaries.
The multiple international road race winner is following in the footsteps of his dad, Robert, who received the Freedom of the Borough in 2007, and uncle Joey, who became a Freeman of Ballymoney in 1993.
Only two other people have been granted the status – the most esteemed honour council can bestow – with former Ballymoney mayor Mary J Holmes OBE, JP and Lord Bannside obtaining the accolade in 1986 and 2000 respectively.
Dunlop boosted his tally of Isle of Man TT triumphs to seven last year, when he set the iconic Mountain Course alight on his way to a famous four wins in the same week in the Superbike, Supersport and Superstock classes.
He has also claimed international victories at the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix and countless wins at the Irish National meetings, plus the Southern 100 and Scarborough events.
Speaking at the event, Dunlop said: “For me this is a massive honour and I never thought I’d be following in the footsteps of my dad and Joey because of what they achieved in the sport.
“This probably means more to me than my TT wins and I want to thank my family, friends and sponsors because if it wasn’t for them then I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s a pity my dad wasn’t here because he helped me all the way at the start,” he added.
“It’s a massive achievement and I thank everyone for it – it’s the biggest honour I will ever have.”
At only 24 years of age, the supremely talented roads maestro established himself as the sport’s world number one last year, his ability to win in every class at the top level setting him apart.
Anyone who witnessed his maiden North West 200 win in 2008, less than two days after his father was killed in a practice accident, knew they were watching a rare talent and Dunlop has since gone on to scale incredible heights.
The Dunlop name, so proudly associated with Ballymoney and Northern Ireland, has a special place in motorcycle road racing and that enduring legacy is set to continue with Michael and his brother William upholding family pride.