Northern Ireland is rooting for Tony and Rory this weekend

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

It will be a wonderful end to AP McCoy’s career if he wins the Grand National today.

The past Grand National winner will ride his horse Shutthefrontdoor at Aintree at 4.15pm. If the Ulsterman wins, he might bring forward his planned retirement from the end of the current racing season.

His mother Claire will be delighted too — no wonder, given how nerve-shredding it is to watch horse races in which the spectator has an interest, and given the physical risks involved in riding a horse at any speed, let alone the pace of a racing horse.

AP McCoy is one of Northern Ireland’s all-time sporting greats, which is saying something in a Province that has produced George Best and Rory McIlroy.

In 2013, McCoy became the first jockey in history to reach the milestone of 4,000 jump race wins.

The British public understands the scale of his successes, and in 2010 named him the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Regrettably, their vote in the most recent awards shows they do not yet have the appreciation of McIlroy that his stunning talents deserve, but this will gradually change, as he notches up more victories — perhaps even this very weekend at the Masters.

The fact that McCoy was the first jockey to win Sports Personality tells you a lot about the scale of his achievements.

McCoy is now aged 40. The Moneyglass man is in one of the very few sports where it is possible to compete at the highest level at that age (golf being another, as Darren Clarke’s Open victory in 2011 at the age of 42 demonstrated).

So let’s hope McCoy pulls it off today at Aintree. But even if he doesn’t, as is likely given the notorious unpredictability of that much-loved contest, fans will relish seeing him compete in what will in any event be his last Grand National.

McCoy has given us decades of pleasure and has been one of Northern Ireland’s shining sport ambassadors. Come on Tony (and come on Rory). We’re all rooting for you both.