AP McCoy comes clean and admits seeing a lot of himself in Roy Keane

‘Fear of failure’ just the ticket if you want to become the best in your field

Ted McCoy won the RTÉ sports person of the year award. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Ted McCoy won the RTÉ sports person of the year award. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Mon, Dec 23, 2013, 12:00

It was way, way back in January that Ted Walsh said of the four-legged athlete Benefficient, “there are days when he looks a helluva horse, and there are days when he just looks a horse”.

That observation came to mind during RTÉ’s Sports Awards on Saturday night when the room was full of horses of the helluva and two-legged kind, divil a sight of anything that looked like a bog-standard nag.

And, funnily enough, it was the very same Ted who dismissed as “a load of crap” on the radio machine yesterday the dose of Roy-Keane-itis that infected the studio, AP McCoy, the winner of the Sports Person of the Year, contaminated more than most.

It was only last month that the Keane man hailed McCoy’s “fear of failure”, noting that “fear is a part of getting the best out of you”, adding the proviso: “As long as it doesn’t take over your life and you can’t sleep at night, it is all right.”

But in that highly sublime – and we’re talking seriously sublime – Keane and Vieira: Best of Enemies documentary, the Roy man hinted that his entire career had been occupied by sleepless nights, his joy after successes so fleeting, his attention turning astoundingly speedily to the stomach-churning prospect of falling at the next hurdle.

One of a kind? Well. Could AP relate to Roy, asked Darragh Maloney.

“Yes, very much so,” he said, “I very sadly saw a lot of me in him, which is probably not a great thing to say for myself. But yeah, it doesn’t last, it never lasts long enough – whether it’s the fear of you never getting that feeling back again . . . it lasted a few days, but it’s long gone, as far as I’m concerned. I can relate to a lot of the things he said, I don’t know if I should be proud of or not.”

This was AP McCoy, talking like he was just another nag.

“Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be better than I was today,” he said, grief stricken by his bad day at the races, his 4,000th career winner a dim and distant memory.

Roy and AP, then, two of a kind. A unique double-act?


Howling at the screen
A break for the ads. A preview of the forthcoming Ronan O’Gara documentary.

“I wish I could have had a laugh, I wish I could be smiling all the time, I wish I could enjoy it more, but I didn’t, that’s the honest answer,” he said, and at that point you could only assume Ted was howling at his screen, “enough of this crap lads, ye’re legends, be feckin’ happy!”

By then, though, you were getting a notion of what it takes to be a champion this weather, sailor Annalise Murphy also waving off her fourth place finish at the 2012 Olympics.

This is why we’re watching the RTÉ’s Sports Awards on telly, rather than being there collecting gongs.

Nollaig Cleary, a case in point. She was getting married on Saturday, but allowed RTÉ gatecrash her day to chat with her about winning several gazillion All-Ireland football medals with Cork. (But they still lost out to a team with one All-Ireland between them . . . the women’s rugby Grand Slammers also overlooked, but sure . . .)

“There are no big heads or big backsides on the team,” confirmed Cork manager Eamonn Ryan, the un-awarded manager of the year, Nollaig nodding alongside him, the pair of them showing divil a sign, at 10.40 of a wedding evening, of having let themselves go, Eamonn most likely joining Nollaig and Mr Nollaig on their honeymoon in Lanzarote to ensure she keeps up her training regime ahead of the new season.

And that’s what it possibly takes to reach those heights.

Paul McGrath, as he has oft conceded, strayed from those disciplined sporting paths once or twice, but was still a sporting Irish God like few others.

A helluva horse, the McGrath man, actually – one of a kind.

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