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Carrick strangers play out a North West thriller that was second to nun

By Billy Weir

You find before you a troubled man. I have an image in my head that just won't go away of Stephen Watson in a wimple dancing over Juniper Hill.

It began with the BBCNI man standing like Finn McCool's waif-like wee brother at the Giant's Causeway, telling us "in May, as this coastline springs to life, the roads come alive to the sound of motorbike engines".

It wasn't the only sight troubling people in that neck of the woods - all week a giant, orange glowing ball in the sky, never seen before in May, was making men in leather perspire like, well, like Stephen Watson dressed as a nun.

This was the start of the second highlights show of three from the Beeb and was a bit of a continuity nightmare as we began baked in the dusky sunshine of Thursday evening's final race before moving onto Saturday's slightly soggier start.

There was some great action on show and it was the same as on Sunday as we moved onto the last three races in the final highlights show, beginning with a real tear-jerker as Michael Rutter won for Ryan Farquhar's team.

For those of you not in the know, Farquhar was nearly killed at the event last year and the sight of him holding back the tears at the end was wonderful to see and then the finish everyone wanted was assured when Alastair Seeley won his fourth race of the event, with the North West 200 Superbike showpiece race to come, bringing the curtain down.

When I said 'everyone' I may have been too hasty, enter Phillip McCallen, the legend, who in 1992 won five races in a day and is still the craziest man ever to have parked his posterior on a Honda.

"Can he (Alastair Seeley) equal you?" enquired Watson.

"He could win five in an event, but I won five in a day. I will still have the bragging rights," said mighty Mac, putting the Wee Wizard in his place.

He had enough to contend with in Glenn Irwin, a very noisy neighbour, as co-commentator Steve Parrish revealed as an epic race unfolded.

"Both riders from Carrickfergus, they're kind of neighbours, I don't think they go out drinking beer together, ohh, Seeley's not going down there, there's a wet patch," he said and we all hoped it was the puddles and not the beer he was on about.

Beside him in the commentary box, Richard Nichols carried on the theme.

"If they were better friends you'd call them the Carrick Crusaders," he said, badly mixing up his Irish League teams. Perhaps Carrick strangers would be a more apt description, but then we were rudely interrupted again.

"Oh my goodness me," said Parrish as Seeley wobbled from side to side.

"It looks like a broken toilet seat he's sitting on at the moment," he added and there was more drama to come at the next U-bend, sorry, bend as Seeley went off track.

"That would have confused the traction control, I'd have been off to the toilet myself," added Parrish, but it was to be Irwin flushed with success as he crossed the line with Seeley in his back pocket.

Simply wonderful stuff, I have completely forgotten about Stephen Watson and his wimple…

Belfast Telegraph

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