More than 2,000 people took to the streets of Youghal, Co Cork, last night to pay tribute to the town’s newest and greatest double act since Moby Dick and Ahab.
Double Grand National winners Davy Russell and Tiger Roll were in town for celebratory mania unseen since John Huston, Gregory Peck, and co strode the harbour sidewalk in 1954.
Upwards of 500 people lined Barry’s Lane in the shadow of the Clock Gate in advance of the duo’s arrival. Some travelled from within a furlong of the town while others were at the nether end of a long chase.
No doubt for some seasoned punters among them, it would have been the nearest they got to a winner all week.
Pauline Daly and her adult daughter Louise had driven from Kilworth. They had had their finances enhanced by Tiger’s latest Aintree success and “just love the horse”.
Brendan and Anne O’Connell, with their children Oisín and Katie and pal Seán O’Leary made the short trip from Clashmore, west Waterford, and witnessed Tiger’s triumphs at first hand. Much as they admired the horse, they would “always be fans of Davy no matter what he is on”.
The equine equivalent of a stretch limo was a large van with inbuilt horse accommodation — from which royalty now gingerly stepped, draped proudly in his Aintree Grand National green blanket.
Ears flickering in acknowledgment, impervious to the raised phone cameras, he was soon stood beneath the 18th century Clock Gate tower for a formal photoshoot as a lengthy queue of four-wheeled transport grew unceasingly in his wake.
“Jaysus, he’s way smaller than I expected. Look at his behind,” gasped one admirer.
The reception transferred 800m to Green Park, where the Youghal pipe band had serenaded another waiting throng.
Bernie Mullaney from Youghal, “a big race fan”, was there to see Davy more than the horse and described the encounter as “just brilliant”.
Sarah McMahon, Tina Crowley, and Paul Walshe came specifically from Cork City especially because, Sarah explained, “the horse is amazing, Davy is brilliant, and it’s great for Youghal! I know I’ll have goose bumps.”
Tiger Roll seemed to appreciate having grass underfoot as he circled an impromptu paddock between photoshoots with a litany of human adherents.
Davy Russell, accompanied by his wife Edelle, children Lilly, Finn, Liam, and Jaimee, dad Jerry, and extended family, was delighted but not surprised by the turnout.
“Youghal people are like that,” he smiled.
They are a very supportive community and I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to bring the horse here tonight for everyone to see him.
Tiger Roll breeder Jerry O’Brien was also proudly in attendance.
Departing the scene, Limerick man Conal Kelly pointed to the buggy being pushed by his partner, Jessica Reynolds, in which their eight-month-old daughter Ruby was snugly ensconced.
“Tiger Roll paid for that buggy,” said Conal. “Got him at 14’s the first year he won the National!”
A whale of a time all round.