In contemporary Irish sport, Henry Shefflin, Brian O’Driscoll, and Rory McIlroy have achieved that status. So too has Tony McCoy, the 19-times champion jump jockey, who this weekend announced he is to retire from racing. He is expected to ride his last race at Sandown Park on April 25 when, to round his career off with an elegant symmetry, he will be crowned champion jockey for the 20th time. McCoy has rewritten racing history becoming the first jump jockey to ride 2,000, 3,000, and 4,000 winners. Once again, dry statistics can hardly convey the enormity of that achievement.
It is another sign of true greatness that a sportsman can retire at the time of their choosing. Setting the terms for the final act is a luxury afforded to very few — consider McCoy’s contemporary Tiger Woods, a once-great golfer struggling to regain the sublime dominance that came so easily to him. How he might wish to be in McCoy’s position.
Should injury not intervene and remind us all that McCoy is after all mortal he will, on April 25, leave the winner’s enclosure to take his place in the permanent pantheon. It is a sign of his unprecedented achievement that no one can question his right to do so.