Ted walsh
Ted Walsh, his wife Helen, and amateur jockey Derek O'Connor celebrate a 2019 Cheltenham win with Any Second Now, which went on 3rd and 2nd place finishes in the Aintree Grand National in 2021 and 2022. [Inpho/Dan Sheridan]

Top-weight makes 3rd-time lucky tough ask for Any Second Now

Kildare-based racehorse trainer Ted Walsh says he was “absolutely shocked” after learning that his horse Any Second Now has been given joint top-weight for this year’s Aintree Grand National. The 11-year-old has finished third and second in the last two renewals of the world’s most famous steeplechase and will bid to make it third time lucky under the burden of 11stone, 12 pounds in Liverpool on April 15. 

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Walsh memorably teamed up with his son Ruby to claim Grand National glory with Papillon in 2000, but feels Any Second Now would need to be a very special horse to add his name to the roll of honor. Walsh said: ‘‘I know he is not Red Rum, I know he is not a Crisp and he is not a L’Escargot, so make your own mind up. I’m absolutely shocked that he has top-weight. He is in as good nick as he was last year, but he has got top-weight. I think he would have to be an exceptional horse to win it with top-weight.’’ 

Reflecting on his previous Grand National triumph Ted said: ‘‘Winning with Papillon was great. Winning the Nationalis an outstanding moment, but to have your son on board makes it all the sweeter.’’ Any Second Now is joined at the top of the weights by Gordon Elliott’s 2022 Irish Gold Cup winner Conflated and Shark Hanlon’s American Grand National hero Hewick, both of whom are first bound for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, before they can think about Aintree. Elliott trained Tiger Roll when he won the Grand National in 2018 and 2019, but Hanlon has yet to sample success on the big day at Aintree.



Former Manchester United and Irish defender John O’Shea is stepping up from the Irish under 21 backroom set-up to join Stephen Kenny backroom team at senior level. O’Shea will be taking the number three role that was previously filled by Damien Duff, Anthony Barry and John Eustace; Keith Andrews is Kenny’s number two. The 41-year-old Waterford-born coach is currently on the backroom staff at Stoke City and will be maintaining that role in tandem with his new Irish commitment. O’Shea, who played 118 times for Ireland, extended his contract as an assistant to Irish under 21 manager Jim Crawford last month. He has been working alongside Crawford since 2020 and is highly regarded within the FAI set-up. 

Kenny said: ‘‘We are delighted to welcome John to the senior international coaching team. John had a brilliant career playing for Ireland right through from under-15 level. Following that, he has committed himself to a career in coaching, working with both Reading and Stoke City for almost four years now. He has also combined that with a full campaign with the under-21 team under Jim Crawford, and I have watched his progress closely as he made a positive contribution throughout his time with the team. John will now make the transition into the senior coaching team where he knows the team well and we look forward to John joining our staff for the Latvia and France matches later this month.’’



Ireland and Munster backrow Peter O’Mahony has signed a year-long extension to his IRFU contract that will run until the end of the 2023/24 season. The 33-year-old Corkonian made his Ireland debut against Italy in 2012 Six Nations championships and has won 91 caps for his country. He said: ‘‘The journey this Ireland squad has been on since the World Cup in Japan has been incredible to be a part of. There is a hunger to learn and compete and a great camaraderie in the group. My ambition is to compete at a third World Cup and help this team achieve success over the coming weeks and months. O’Mahony has captained Ireland on 10 occasions and also skippered the Lions in the opening Test of the 2017 series against New Zealand. He has won Six Nations in 2014 and 2015, a Grand Slam in 2018 and a Triple Crown in 2022.In addition, he has represented Ireland at two World Cups, 2015 and 2019 starting seven games across the two tournaments.

Meanwhile Connacht have confirmed that head coach Pete Wilkins will assume overall responsibility for the team next season, after the departure of director of rugby Andy Friend this summer. Wilkins has signed a three-year deal to lead their management team next season, with his role overseeing the entire professional setup. The 44-year-old Englishman was appointed head coach last summer, with Andy Friend moving into a newly created director of rugby role, but with Friend now set to return to Australia at the end of the season, the province has given Wilkins overall responsibility for the side. Wilkins arrived in Galway in 2017 as defence coach, having previously worked at Edinburgh and the Queensland Reds.



One of Kerry’s most famous GAA clubs made a welcome return to action recently. Forced to disband two years ago due to a lack of numbers, Valentia Young Islanders are back thanks to an influx of players from their underage teams. A notable addition to their ranks is former soccer player Shevket Dzaparow, who settled in the area after fleeing his native Crimea last year following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The club’s most famous player from the past is the legendary Mick O’Connell, while Ger O’Driscoll and Ger Lynch also won All-Ireland senior medals with Kerry during the Mick O’Dwyer era. Valentia’s first adult game since 2021 was against Sneem/Derrynane in the South Kerry League in their home pitch of O’Connor Park.



There has been a new trend in Gaelic football recently where inter-county goalkeepers tend to solo with the ball the outside their own 21- yard line and some are great free-takers also. Former Dublin ‘keeper Stephen Cluxton had a good record from frees, but he has been overtaken by Tyrone’s Niall Morgan and Rory Beggan from Monaghan. Now Wicklow goalkeeper Mark Jack has surely set a new record for goalkeepers when recently scored his 101st from a free for Wicklow against London.  The Baltinglass player, who made his inter-county debut in 2017, has now scored 62 points in the Nationalleague and 39 in the Championship.


The deaths occurred last week of two well-known English sports personalities, one a presenter and the other a commentator. Dickie Davies who was best known as the presenter of World of Sport on ITV from 1968 to 1985. Davies attended Oldershaw Grammar School in Wallasey, Merseyside after passing his eleven-plus; he then did National Service in the Royal Air Force and worked as a purser on ocean liners. His first job in broadcasting was as an announcer for Southern Television. In the early stages of his career, Davies was known by his full name, Richard Davies, but changed to Dickie Davies at the suggestion of his ITV colleague Jimmy Hill. He was 94. Davies’s death means the end of most of the well-known Saturday lunch-time sports presenters. Already gone were: Jimmy Greaves, Ian St John, Frank Bough and Jimmy Hill.

A few days later the death of soccer commentator John Motson was confirmed at the age of 77. Motson became synonymous with English football during his distinguished 50-year career with the BBC, He retired in 2018 after covering 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships, 29 FA Cup finals and more than 200 England matches. Motty, who was famous for wearing his sheepskin coat, began working for “Match of the Day” in 1971 and commentated on more than 2,500 games and was hugely popular with generations of football fans. The son of a Methodist minister, John was born in Salford, Lancashire. After starting out as a newspaper reporter in Barnet and at the Sheffield Morning Telegraph, he joined the BBC in 1968 as a sports presenter on Radio 2. In 2014, he was diagnosed with bowel cancer and was forced to miss the World Cup in Brazil. At the time Motson said: ‘‘I consider myself very lucky I was diagnosed so early that the cancer was dealt with.’’

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