Tony McCoy and his daughter Eve are greeted by joyous crowds in Moneyglass
By Conor Spackman
Surrounded, crowded, boxed in - occupational hazards for any jockey, even one as successful as Tony McCoy.
At the weekend however, the champion rider will not have minded given that the jostling came from an adoring home crowd in Moneyglass.
It was the first time he has returned to the County Antrim village since his epic Grand National victory on Don't Push It last month, a victory which confirmed his position at the top of the racing pantheon.
Moneyglass is the definition of a village, small and nestled, just off the main road between Belfast and Londonderry.
But at the weekend, it thrived and throbbed like a city, indicative of its affection for a man admired equally for rising high and yet remaining grounded.
As they queued politely for autographs and photographs, he displayed his paradoxical, trademark mix of warmth and coolness.
It is why they cling to him in Moneyglass, 20 years after he left to find his fortune.
"He is a credit to the people, a credit to himself, a credit to his parents, an ambassador," one woman said, raising her voice over the music, trumpeting his presence.
He is a pop star himself here, famed and loved not only among the trilby-wearing, hardened gamblers who were betting on dogs in the corner of the local turf accountant's shop as the rest of the town collected their National winnings.
Among the crowd are young boys dressed as jockeys, teenage girls giddier than for the visit of a chart-topper.
And yet he is as calm as he was when he reached the turn for home at Aintree and knew the one he wanted was within his grasp.
"It's something that you can only be proud of, to see this many people locally, turning out. I am very privileged and very grateful for it."
Tony McCoy and Don't Push It after crossing the line at Aintree
Women queue to kiss him, men to shake his hand, each one part of a chorus, proclaiming him the greatest jump jockey in the world, something he brushes off with the ease with which he flicks his whip.
"I don't ever think of it like that. I think of it as a job that I try to do very well and whether it is as good as someone else does it, then that is for other people to decide.
"It's what makes me happy - that is the important thing."
It makes the people of this village happy too and not simply because their wealth grew proportionally more than anywhere else on that joyous day.
They like him because he is not only among them, but one of them - something a village like this in Northern Ireland considers true wealth, as one man queuing excitedly for a photo, sums up.
"The money and the fame and all, it hasn't changed him.
"He is still AP McCoy from Moneyglass and he hasn't changed the way he has been."