Robbie McNamara: 'I don't 'deal' with paralysis, I just go to work'

Robbie McNamara with Rathcannon
Robbie McNamara with Rathcannon, due to ride on the Grand National undercard next April

Robbie McNamara would not necessarily enjoy the description of him, but he is an inspiration.

The 28-year-old was paralysed below the waist in April 2015, when his mount in a minor race at Wexford came down the day before he was due to travel to Britain to line up in the Aintree Grand National for a second time.

He was the last jockey to sustain the same kind of life-changing injuries that have affected Freddy Tylicki since his fall in a Flat race at Kempton in October, and now trains 38 horses from his wheelchair.

A long list of injuries led to months of treatment and rehabilitation, but McNamara - whose cousin John Thomas McNamara was paralysed when falling at Cheltenham in 2013, and died three years later - simply won't acknowledge the word 'disability' nor let it interrupt his life.

And he will not thank anyone for suggesting otherwise.

Robbie McNamara
McNamara is now trainer to a stable of 38 horses

"I don't 'deal' with it," McNamara told BBC Radio 5 live, firmly. "I get up in the morning and just go to work. There's not a cloud hanging over me. It doesn't bother me.

"What does bother me is when I go racing and people say 'oh, it's great to see you out' or stuff like that. That annoys me.

"I'm probably making more money than them, I'm probably happier than they are, I probably drive a better car, I live in a nicer house and they're taking pity on me, and it drives me mad. But it spurs me on."

For obvious reasons, the extent of Tylicki's injuries chimed particularly strongly.

Like thousands of others, McNamara witnessed the four-horse pile-up in a routine Kempton race and has been struck by the outpouring of sympathy from across horse racing - Flat and National Hunt - following the incident.

At Clunemore stables in Irish racing's Curragh HQ, there was a grim feeling of familiarity.

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Freddy Tylicki: Leading jockeys pay tribute to paralysed rider

"When the doctor came out and said he is paralysed so early, it was a definitive answer, which I think was better, " said McNamara, who was on the same course as Tylicki's sister Madeleine prior to them both receiving trainers' licences.

"One thing that annoyed me a bit was that I kind of accepted it after two or three weeks, but people around me were saying it might be [less serious] spinal shock.

"Being realistic is important. He's been dealt his hand and he has to get on with it. It's not going to be pleasant - it's a horrible road ahead - but he knows what he has and at least he knows he can get on, whereas I was waking up wishing and hoping all day."

While acknowledging everyone must come to terms with their situation in their own way, McNamara has told Madeleine Tylicki he is willing to speak to Freddy if she thinks it would help.

Seeing McNamara wheeling himself around the stables or transferring smoothly from the chair into his car before handing down instructions to the riders on the gallops seems to confirm his insistence that anything and everything is possible.

His first runners, at Cork in July, provided McNamara with just the sort of instant impression he had planned - two wins and a second place - plus the added advantage of giving the "pitying brigade something else to talk about other than the accident and the wheelchair".

Freddy Tylicki
Freddy Tylicki was paralysed in a four-horse pile-up at Kempton in October

His training philosophy involves "keeping horses happy", learnt when working for master trainer Dermot Weld; improved levels of core fitness observed on mornings riding for Willie Mullins, Ireland's champion jumps trainer; and the latest sports science and technologies.

McNamara has big ambitions, too, with the jump racing festivals at Cheltenham, Aintree - where he's aiming bumper-horse Rathcannon at a race on the Grand National undercard next April, and Punchestown in his sights, as well as the major Flat prizes across Ireland and Britain.

During 11 successful seasons race-riding, McNamara was renowned for his two wins at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, his style in the saddle, and for his inevitable sibling rivalry with brother Andrew, who was also unfeasibly tall.

Both are now trainers and you cannot help thinking McNamara is relishing the chance to take on his elder sibling. "I'll leave him behind quick enough," he said, grinning.

There is, indeed, no cloud hanging over this guy.

You can hear more from McNamara on BBC 5 Live Sport from 19:00 GMT on Thursday

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