Belfast Telegraph

Sports stars team up for charity game tribute to William Dunlop

Glenn Irwin is tackled by Gary Dunlop during the charity game at Seaview
Glenn Irwin is tackled by Gary Dunlop during the charity game at Seaview
William Dunlop

By Stewart Robson

Some of the biggest names in local sport came together for a charity football match to honour the late William Dunlop.

Ex-players such as David Healy and Keith Gillespie as well as current motorcyclists fought out a competitive game at Seaview yesterday in tribute to the Ballymoney road racer who was killed while riding last year.

William was just 32 when he died during practice at the Skerries 100 in July, leaving behind wife Janine and daughter Ella (2).

A second daughter, Willa, was born two months later.

Hundreds of people, some in motorcycling regalia, including T-shirts with William's face printed on them, came from far and wide on a bitterly cold January day to show their support.

The Road Racers, managed by Crusaders FC boss Stephen Baxter, came up against Linfield boss Healy's Short Circuit Racers, with the former earning a 4-3 win.

The showpiece, an annual event, was organised by William's cousin Gary, son of legendary road racer Joey Dunlop, along with 2016 Irish Superbike champion Nikki Coates.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph just after the final whistle, Gary said the past months had been difficult, but the large turnout showed how much William meant to so many people.

"William's fans, you could see them all in the crowd, the ones that meant quite a bit to him. It was great to see," he said.

William was the third member of the Dunlop family to die while racing, after his uncle Joey and father Robert.

Seven months on from the accident, Gary said it was still hard to come to terms with the tragedy.

"It's been terrible, but at the end of the day the most important thing is looking after Janine and the two kids," he added.

"The rest of us just have to suck it up for a while, but it's Janine that has to wake up every morning and look at her two children."

Former Manchester United, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers and Northern Ireland midfielder Gillespie opened the scoring for the Short Circuit Racers early in the first half with a right-footed drive, but the Road Racers fought back to earn the win.

"You could see the competitiveness," added Gary.

"Everybody out there, they're winners."

Gillespie was a friend of the rider.

He said despite suffering from two sore legs, taking part was worth it.

"I played golf with William and knew him on a personal basis.

"It is still hard to believe and hard to get your head around.

"It's nice to come out here and remember him."

Healy was involved in last year's game and the former striker said managing the Road Racers was a "privilege".

William will be bestowed with another honour this week when he is posthumously inducted into the Irish Motorcycling Hall of Fame, joining his father and uncle on the list.

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