William Dunlop's partner Janine 'misses him more than words can say'
The grieving partner of William Dunlop has described the late road racing star as "exceptionally special" and says she would "give anything for one more day" with the tragic Ballymoney man.
The 32-year-old was killed instantly while riding his Temple Golf Club Yamaha during practice for the Skerries 100 in Co Dublin just over a fortnight ago.
Hundreds of fans flooded into his Co Antrim home town to pay their respects at his funeral, and floral tributes were laid at the statue of his late father Robert in Ballymoney's Joey and Robert Dunlop Memorial Garden.
Robert was killed in the North West 200 in 2008, while his brother Joey, William's uncle, died racing in Estonia in 2000.
William had been making his return to the sport after pulling out of this year's Isle of Man TT to be with his pregnant partner.
In a poignant tribute issued yesterday, Janine Brolly, who is mum to William's two-year-old daughter Ella and is expecting their second child, said she missed him "more than words can possibly say".
Reflecting on the last time she saw him alive, she stated: "On the Friday when Ella and I waved William off in his van for the weekend he had the biggest smile on his face, he was genuinely looking forward to heading away for a couple of days racing.
"No pressure, no worries, just go and enjoy himself - that is the precious last memory I have of Will leaving our home.
"We felt as if we had weathered the worst of the storm for this year. Our luck was changing and plans were being made for the coming exciting months as we prepared for life as a family of four.
"The anxiety that usually appeared when he left for a race weekend wasn't there this time, in fact, when I got news that there may be some kind of problem, the thought that this could be concern over William didn't even initially enter my head."
Heartbreakingly, Janine confessed that "the words that followed in the next few minutes didn't register, to be truthful, I'm not sure if they do now".
"We were so happy; this isn't how it was supposed to go," she said.
"Going off to race in his old van, which incidentally was his pride and joy no matter how many times it broke down on us, was just life to William - a life that he loved.
"I think I always knew that racing would always be part of our lives, he would never be able to let go of that pull. It is intrinsic to who he was, who he always will be."
A committed family man, Janine says she could "clearly see how something had shifted" for William since Ella's birth.
"The day that Ella was born I looked at him when they placed her in his arms and I watched him fall in love," she fondly recalled. "That will always be my most treasured memory.
"I don't think he could believe that surge of love himself.
"The focus on planning a year out through the coming races was now filled with a countdown each time he went away until he was back at home.
"From my point of view, the past few months I had come to completely rely on him as I worried about our baby on the way.
"William never let me down, he stepped up and looked after us so incredibly well - I knew that he would always put his family first, and in turn, William knew how much we absolutely adored him. Our family was our complete universe - our own little bubble and I am struggling to let go of that."
Touchingly, the young woman admitted that since receiving the tragic news, she had "just wanted to hide".
"Speaking about it would make everything a reality and I'm just not ready to allow that to fully happen yet," she explained.
The brave young mum also paid tribute to the public, revealing that she had "read the messages of support and condolence" and was "so, so grateful for them".
She added: "Everyone who has sent cards, posted their memories and images and shared how they felt that they knew William have been such a comfort, please know how much I truly treasure them. Speaking to those who were the closest to him - his circle of friends and sponsors who stood by him when things were at their toughest, was a small but genuine group and having them around him was so important.
"It makes me realise how lucky we are to have them in our lives.
"I don't think William knew just how exceptionally special he was, for someone who preferred to say very little, he really could make a lasting impact.
"It was that indescribable quality that made me fall in love with him.
"It has been mentioned many times how uncomfortable he got with any form of praise, but I think Will would have been so proud to know how much he is thought of and somewhere he is smiling to himself."
Janine said that the support given by mourners who had visited the home of William's mum Louise and attended the funeral was "very much valued".
She also paid tribute to the support she had received from the Dunlop family circle, including William's brothers Michael and Daniel.
"Seeing the care and love given to William's Mummy and Nana has been remarkable," she stated. "His brothers have done him so proud.
"As a couple, we created a new family circle and combined they have taken such special care of Ella and I, organising everything and allowing me to concentrate on my main priority - my babies. My mum, granny and sister haven't left my side and I don't know what I would have done without them.
"Road racers have hearts like lions, but I am surrounded by the strongest women you could ever hope to meet. I hope that I can do them proud too."
Janine said that William "raced because it was his passion, woven deep within his DNA, but he was allowed to live his life doing that passion professionally thanks to his supporters".
"Thank you for that unfaltering support," she said.
"Finally, to those who have been so outstandingly generous to Ella and I, well, thank you just isn't anywhere near enough, but please know how much I truly appreciate it. You have shown such incredible compassion.
"One day I will be able to share the incredible memories and achievements with both our children, I will also be able to share the little mundane private memories that made up our family life - all of them are equally as important."
In a final, touching passage, the local woman promised that her children would "always know" that William "shone brightest as a father".
"They will always know how special Daddy was and how much he loves them - William was a tremendous sportsman, but where he really shone brightest was as a father. I promise that they will always know that.
"I miss him more than words can possibly say, but am so thankful I will always have part of William with me, forever.
"I would give anything for one more day. Thank you with all my heart, Jan."