There have been many moving tributes over the past 24 hours to William Dunlop, leaving me to ponder my own homage to the likeable Ballymoney racer.
I have covered William’s racing career from the outset, from my days as a cub reporter on the Coleraine Times newspaper.
Over the past 15 years, I chronicled his ascent up the racing ladder, from his first Irish national road racing victory at Athea in County Limerick in the 125cc class in 2005, to his maiden four-stroke success on Chris Dowd’s Yamaha in the second Supersport race at the 2009 Ulster Grand Prix.
My opinion of him has never changed: William was simply just William.
He bore the legendary Dunlop name, but the unassuming Ballymoney racer remained the same humble, down-to-earth lad that he had always been, despite becoming established as one of the very best in his own right.
He won 119 Irish road races since his first top-step triumph on his wee ‘125’ 13 years ago, and also proved he could cut it at the international ‘majors’.
Four wins at the North West 200, seven victories at his beloved Dundrod and three successive Supersport TT podiums between 2012 and 2014 attest to his unquestionable racing pedigree.
I valued his insight as a columnist for our weekly Keep ’er Lit pull-out and I will miss our chats every Monday, when I discovered it was not a wise move to interrupt him if he was watching the Jeremy Kyle Show!
But that was William – an ordinary person who achieved extraordinary things on a racing motorcycle.
His passing is a massive blow for Irish motorcycling, but this pales into insignificance in comparison to what his partner Janine, baby girl Ella, brothers Michael and Daniel, Granny May and the wider Dunlop family circle are going through right now.
Rest in peace William.