Belfast Telegraph

William Dunlop: 'I cried my eyes out' says heartbroken family friend Liam Beckett

Sunday Life columnist and former mechanic of William Dunlop's dad, Robert, Liam Beckett has paid a heartbreaking tribute to the legendary road racer following his tragic death at the Skerries 100.

Tragedy struck the Dunlop family for a third time on Saturday when William Dunlop was killed in a practice run at the event in Co Dublin.

Following consultation with the riders, it was agreed the overall prize fund for the event, which is going ahead as planned on Sunday, would be given to the Dunlop family.

The son of the late Robert and nephew of the legendary Joey was making his return to the sport after pulling out of this year's Isle of Man TT to be with his pregnant partner.

His death has stunned both road racing fans and the public who knew him as a fierce competitor yet a gentleman off the track.

Liam Beckett, speaking to the Sunday Life, said: “I pray for the family and my thoughts are with his partner Janine, daughter Ella and their unborn child."

Everyone is heartbroken and I must admit I cried my eyes out before arriving at the family home last night and I’m sure I’ll shed plenty more tears throughout this week. It’s devastating. Liam Beckett

“I don’t say this lightly. William got to the top of his profession in road racing not because he was a nephew of Joey or the son of Robert, but because of his own talent and ability.

"But my relationship with William goes beyond the sport of bikes. I enjoyed playing golf with William regularly and he was such an unassuming lad. I made sure that when I picked the players to play with us in our fourball, William would always be comfortable.

“I will miss the social aspect we enjoyed and I am heartbroken.”

Tributes from across Ireland and indeed, the world, have been flooding in flowing William's tragic death.

Road race champion Ryan Farquhar said: “I’m absolutely gutted. We all feel the hurt for the family. It’s another sad day for road racing.

“We all know road racing is dangerous and when it goes wrong our thoughts are very much with the family, friends and sponsors who are left behind.”

Flowers at the Dunlop memorial garden Pic by Peter Morrison

DUP MP Ian Paisley Junior told the Sunday Life William “represented the past, future and present of road racing and he has left a legacy which he can be immensely proud of. William was an absolute gentlemen. There was no showiness with William- he just got on with the sport he loved. Sadly, accidents are part of the sport and we’ve lost William."

Former Ulster Unionist leader and ex-sports journalist Mike Nesbitt paid tribute to William, saying: “How sad to hear of the death of William Dunlop. Like his father Robert, uncle Joey, the Armoy Armada and all the friends and colleagues who lived and died by their sport. RIP.”

Legendary motorcyclist Carl Fogarty added his condolences, saying: “Sad news that William Dunlop has lost his life racing today. Thoughts are with Louise, Michael and family.”

On Saturday night, DUP leader Arlene Foster was among figures in Northern Ireland who reacted to the tragic news.

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