From Aintree back to Mullingar, Rule The World brings Grand National glory home
As hundreds lined the streets of Mullingar in tribute to Aintree Grand National winner Rule The World, an emotional Michael 'Mouse' Morris admitted that he could feel his late son sharing in his success.
"I wish he was here alright to see all of this," said the soft-spoken trainer (65), as the nine-year-old race winner was triumphantly paraded through the town.
"But I'm sure he is looking down and taking it all in."
It has been a testing 12 months for the Co Tipperary trainer following the tragic death of his son, Christopher.
The 30-year-old, known as Tiffer, died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning while working in Argentina last June, leaving the family devastated.
In the aftermath of Saturday's 33-1 Grand National win, Morris said: "I've a lad who's doing overtime for me up above.
"Seeing all of this, all of these people out to show their support … well, it's humbling … I can't really say anything else except that today is very humbling."
Morris's extraordinary success as trainer of the 2016 Grand National winner was shared with Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, who, along with his brother, owns the horse.
"It's been thrilling to be able to bring a Grand National winner back to Mullingar," boasted a delighted O'Leary as he held the reins of Rule The World.
Having landed the €695,779 prize for first place, the airline chief had plenty of reasons to smile.
As fans jostled for a chance to get closer, there was no bigger supporter among the crowd than O'Leary's own mother Ger, who was reduced to tears by the win.
"I had a little weep because I thought it was too much. I'm delighted for the pair of them; it's such a great achievement - especially for Mouse. He's been through so much this past year.
"You could really feel there was someone from above looking down on us."
Mrs O'Leary continued, saying that while her son might love horse-racing, Ryanair "is where his heart lies".
Having ferried his champion racer overnight from the UK, O'Leary said the homecoming was a fitting tribute for the Aintree winner.
"He carries the Westmeath colours, the maroon and white, and we don't bring enough trophies back here to Mullingar.
"So on the rare occasion that Mouse and Tipperary lend us one, we shouldn't be afraid of celebrating,"
"I like to think of maroon and white as Galway, not Mullingar," joked Mouse. The quip drew a big "Go on the Mouse!" cheer from the surrounding crowds, who were thrilled to get a glimpse of the winner.
Cheering alongside her daughter Tia (16), Siobhán Glennan (46) said she was proud to share in the success.
"It's not about the money or anything like that for us. It's about the pride, the horse, and the whole sportsmanship of it."
Jacqueline Carey (50) added: "Fair play to them for coming in and sharing their success. Michael knows how much this means to everyone in the town."