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Westport man steals five-minutes of fame at Aintree – again

Westport’s Noel Duffy is pictured beside winning Grand National owner John Hales and jockey Daryl Jacob on Racing UK interviews after the big race last Saturday.
Westport’s Noel Duffy is pictured beside jockey Daryl Jacob on Racing UK interviews after the big race last Saturday.

Noel, The Grand National and his famous Aintree appearances

Neill O’Neill


HE’S spent more time in the winner’s enclosure at Aintree than JP McManus, received more live air time on television than Ruby Walsh last weekend, and is as consistent a performer on Grand National day in recent years as Ginger McCain was in the seventies.
Who cares if he’s probably never rode a horse, owned one or certainly not trained one, Grand National Day wouldn’t be the same without a packed grandstand, a couple of false starts, and Westport’s own Noel Duffy lurking by BBC horse racing presenter Claire Balding.
As well known for his singing exploits as his impromptu appearances inside the golden circle at Aintree, the Pinewoods crooner did not disappoint on Saturday, and stood fully on camera minutes after the finish line was crossed by Neptune Collonges, as interviews with the ecstatic winning trainer, jockey and owner were beamed live to a global audience.
How Noel breaches the ring of steel around the Aintree enclosure each year during the most famous race of them all is a well-known secret. That he continues to perform unhindered brings a great laugh to all who know him in his native Westport each April.
Shameless, brazen, mischievous, gate-crashing, call it what you like, but Noel gets his five minutes of fame at The Grand National each year, and has been doing so for many a long year now. At this stage the senior officials in the British horse racing industry, or in the BBC for that matter, must surely be wondering who this silver-haired equine tycoon is.
Immaculately turned out every year, Duffy slips into the sanctity of the VIP enclosure and floats through the crowd eavesdropping on the live interviews, like a high-flying advisor lurking on his client’s shoulders to ensure they are giving a good account for themselves. Wherever the camera goes after the race, up pops Noel, and though it happened by chance the first year, such was the reaction that Noel now does it ‘for the craic’ on an annual basis.
The affable grandfather - and eldest sibling of one of Westport’s biggest and best known families – has harboured a passion for horses since childhood, and loves the buzz of Aintree each year.
‘Noelspotting’ has now become a sport in itself around Westport on Grand National Day, the only thing left to happen is for odds to be given on when the presenter will finally turn to her new shadow and interview him.
And, in the unlikely event he gets stuck for words, Noel could always give her a few bars of Sinatra...

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