There's something special about the affection with which racing fans regard jockeys. Nothing in any sport quite matches it. There's an almost familial bond there, a particular note in the voice when you hear the racing aficionado talking about Ruby or AP or Paul or Nina.
The difficulty of it is obvious but the expertise of the jockeys makes us forget that they're also engaged in a very dangerous line of work. We watch them hurtling to the ground and then breathe a sigh of relief when we hear that they're grand to ride our fancy in the next race.
But there was a reminder last week of just what's at stake for jockeys with the death of 19-year-old Jack Tyner.
Jack was the son of Robert Tyner, a Kinsale-based trainer who enjoys a kind of legendary status among the sporting people of my adopted home place of Skibbereen. We have enjoyed many a fine day and night over the years thanks to the talent of Robert Tyner.
That's why there was a strange gloom surrounding the sporting gents of West Cork last week. It was only a couple of years ago that Jack Tyner won at Limerick in his first ever ride under rules. He was a kid who was going places. You could say that he died doing something he loved. But really there are no words that can make sense of the tragedy of parents having to bury their child. It is the nightmare which has jolted many of us awake over the years.
Yet this week the jockeys will go about their trade, doing a job that would terrify most of us, a job which doesn't need to be hyped up, a job which for some reason Irish people are better at than any other people in the world.
If there's a theme running through this week's column it's that we shouldn't take people for granted. I suppose the man I had more conversations about sport with over the years than anyone else was a guy called Ted Sullivan. Ted, who passed away recently, was a fine road bowler in his day but he wasn't famous or anything. He just liked talking about Cork football and the Premier League and Munster rugby and the fortunes of his native Caheragh in the Carbery junior championship. They're small conversations, but they are an important part of the pleasure of following sport.
Sunday Indo Sport