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John Laverty

Ryan Farquhar is well aware of who the real heroes are

John Laverty


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Round of applause: Ryan Farquhar with wife Karen and daughters Keeley and Mya

Round of applause: Ryan Farquhar with wife Karen and daughters Keeley and Mya

Round of applause: Ryan Farquhar with wife Karen and daughters Keeley and Mya

I always smile at the euphemisms. A motorbike so outrageously powerful its G-forces threaten to rip your face off is described as "quick".

Crashing said machine in a road race where speeds are approaching the thick end of 200mph: "falling off".

If another bike is involved, that's called a "collect".

Oh, and my all time favourite, wonderfully articulated in typically understated fashion by the late, great Joey Dunlop in 1985, shortly after his Isle of Man-bound trawler sank in the Irish Sea: "I was near myself."

On May 12, 2016, Ryan Farquhar "fell off" his "quick" KMR Kawasaki near Black Hill after being "collected" by another rider at the North West 200.

The six broken ribs, ankle and foot injuries he sustained during that Supertwins contest are regarded by road racers as mere occupational inconveniences; Farquhar's severely lacerated liver wasn't.

He was hospitalised for almost two months, after complications kicked in following an earlier, prematurely optimistic prognosis. At one stage, he was certainly "near himself".

Last week, the Dungannon man, his wife Karen and the couple's two daughters, Keeley and Mya, joined in the nationwide clapping in honour of the NHS.

The photograph, taken by Stephen Davison and published in this newspaper, was heart-warming; a happy, contented and, thank God, mercifully intact family.

Ryan, one of the finest road racers of his generation, is well aware of the debt he owes "flying doctor" Fred MacSorley, who tended to him at the scene of the horrifying crash (sorry, "falling off" just doesn't cover it), the helicopter crew who rushed him from Portrush to Belfast's RVH and of course the medical team who subsequently took care of him in both ICU and recovery wards.

He knows how blessed he was then - and how cursed so many others are, presently, in this cruelly inverted world.

Had Ryan, who turned 44 in February, been involved in a road crash today, he'd have been tested for Covid-19 shortly after entering hospital. Normal visiting would be a no-no. The family couldn't travel to the Royal and Mater, twice-daily, like they did in 2016. The people tending to Ryan would be dressed like stormtroopers.

Fellow patients for whom coronavirus became, sadly, incurable would die alone, their funerals sparsely attended, their names melded onto a grim statistic as well as a headstone.

And all this despite the unstinting efforts of the medical staff Ryan and millions of others publicly acknowledge every Thursday evening at 8pm.

Ironically, his own life-threatening, ultimately life-changing incident occurred at a similar time, on a Thursday evening.

Having been recently inducted into the Irish Motorcycling's Hall of Fame, and with 357 race wins to his name, it's easy to see why Ryan is often referred to as a "legend" and a "hero".

It's also easy to understand why such blithe terms would embarrass him now.

Like countless millions of us, the Farquhars are at home, staying out of trouble, remaining safe, while the true heroes, the real legends, race towards mortal danger wearing scrubs instead of leathers, masks instead of helmets.

And unlike our sporting "heroes", they don't really have a choice in the matter.

It's remarkable how quickly this enforced isolation, this deliberate antisocial behaviour, has become the norm.

Some day we may well laugh at how ridiculous it seemed having a supermarket with bouncers on its doors, deserted streets on the hottest Saturday of the year, overzealous police officers stamping out innocent family garden barbecues.

But let's not confuse 'restriction' or even 'prohibition' with 'sacrifice'.

I'm sure there are many in the NHS who'd swap a disease-ridden hospital ward for the so-called open prison of their own home, yet another box set, one more round of Monopoly or FaceTime chatter, or attempting to climb Everest via the stairs.

Next time you deign to use the word sacrifice, remember how many of those front-liners have ended up making the ultimate one so we, hopefully, won't have to.

And take another wee look at that touching picture of the Farquhars. As the singing superstar pictured on Karen Farquhar's t-shirt belted out on his first solo UK No.1, it's no sacrifice at all.

A lyric from the other song on that mega-selling 1989 double A-side single might be even more appropriate: reach out for the healing hands.

Belfast Telegraph