McCoy first past the post with a knighthood after glittering career

AP McCoy with his award during Sports Personality of the Year 2015 at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
AP McCoy with his award during Sports Personality of the Year 2015 at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ulster jockey Tony McCoy has added a knighthood in the New Year Honours to his unprecedented list of achievements during a glittering career and beyond.

The unassuming 41-year-old from Moneyglass in Co Antrim officially retired at the end of April - ending a spectacular 23 years in horse racing as champion jockey for the 20th consecutive season.

His latest recognition comes less than two weeks after he picked up the lifetime achievement award at the Sports Personality of the Year ceremony in Belfast.

McCoy, who has ridden 4,358 winners since his first race in 1992, has already been awarded both an OBE and MBE, was named Sports Personality in 2010, and now becomes only the second jockey after Sir Gordon Richards to be awarded a knighthood.

Commenting on McCoy’s legacy, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said his “longevity is a sign of top quality”.

Belfast boxer Carl Frampton is another local favourite to be recognised on the honours list.

The current IBF world super bantamweight champion becomes an MBE for his services to the sport. Frampton took his unblemished professional record to 21 victories when he defended his title against Alejandro González, Jr in El Paso, Texas earlier this year.

A total of 79 people from Northern Ireland were recognised on the latest list, with around half having been nominated by members of the public.

Despite making up only three per cent of the UK population, more than six per cent of all UK recipients were from the Province - a reflection of the high level of community involvement among local volunteers.

Next to McCoy’s knighthood, the second highest awards were the CBEs for former senior civil servants Gerald Lavery and Maxwell George Murray.

Northern Ireland Policing Board chair Anne Marie Connolly becomes an OBE as does Delta Print and Packaging chairman Terence Cross, and former Irish Football Association chairman and educationalist Dr Leslie Caul.

During five years as IFA chair, Dr Caul was instrumental in bringing the new national stadium at Windsor Park to fruition, however he is best known for his work at Stranmillis College where he prepared generations of teachers - as well as developing the first early childhood studies undergraduate degree programme.

Between 1982 and 1986 Dr Caul also served as the Ulster Unionist mayor of Newtownabbey.

“I am quite surprised,” he said.

“I have been a member of a fair number of bodies within education...and on the sport side I have been with the IFA for the last nine years - five of those as chairman of the board.”

Dr Caul said he is delighted at the recent success of the Northern Ireland football team.

“Basically, in the ‘back office’ we managed to create a lot of stability and support which Michael [O’Neill] used to the very best advantage and we qualified [for a major tournament] for the first time in 30 years.”

Mary Cameron of the Ulster Scots Network joined Frampton and former UTV broadcast journalist Anne Hailes on the list of 26 MBEs.

Another worthy award recipient is 76-year-old Royal British Legion chaplain Rev Alan Knox from Garvagh in Co Londonderry who has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM).

A principal fundraiser for the charity, Rev Knox also assists with the annual Remembrance Sunday commemorations and administering the welfare activities of ex-service personnel in the area.

He said he was “very honoured and humbled” to have been recognised.

“It is very worthwhile work. On Remembrance Sunday we say ‘we will remember them’, but we need to do something about it - caring for the loved ones of those who have died and caring for those who have been injured.

“It is our duty to do so and it is a privilege to do so,” Rev Knox added.