Belfast Telegraph

Stand up and support our sporting heroes

Northern Ireland is punching well above its weight this weekend on the worldwide sporting arena. This small province can boast two golfers in the world's top 10, a place among the elite rugby team of Europe, and the greatest national hunt jockey of all time.

They are all in action as far apart as Augusta, Georgia and Aintree, Liverpool and we wish them well. The Ulster rugby team in the Heineken Cup on Sunday afternoon against Northampton has done itself proud this season, reviving memories of the great European victory of 1999. Anyone who has been to Ravenhill on a Friday night or watched Ulster's last six matches - all victorious - on television, will recognise the special spirit which the team engenders in that hallowed old rugby fortress.

The Belfast Telegraph is proud to have its name associated with Ulster rugby and emblazoned on the shirts of the men who will carry the province's hopes onto tomorrow's pitch. Graeme McDowell and Tony McCoy took the top awards recently at the Telegraph's annual sports awards, while Rory McIlroy stunned the golfing world with a breath- taking opening round in the US Masters at Augusta.

The Grand National weekend demonstrates the depth of home-bred sporting prowess with McCoy and another experienced Ulster-born jockey, Peter Buchanan in the world's most famous steeplechase as well as an Ulster-trained horse, Killyglen.

The two golfing Macs have put Northern Ireland on the world's sporting map through Graeme McDowell's victory in the US Open last year and the duo's performances in the Ryder Cup.

What a superb advertisement they are for golf locally and also an incentive for golfers from the US and other countries to visit here and walk the fairways where McDowell and McIlroy nurtured their world-beating skills.

Maybe it's something in the air of sporting Ulster but whatever it is, we should bottle it. We hope that victory for our local boys in the US Masters, the Grand National and Heineken Cup does not prove a putt, a fence or a try too far this weekend.

The anthem of Ravenhill sums up our support admirably. "Stand Up. Stand Up for the Ulstermen."

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