Road racers v short circuit riders in charity football match

Gary Dunlop in action on the Joey's Bar 125cc Honda at the Ulster Grand Prix.
Gary Dunlop in action on the Joey's Bar 125cc Honda at the Ulster Grand Prix.

Some of the country’s top Irish road racers and short circuit riders will go head-to-head in a charity football match at Seaview next month to raise funds for the Children’s Cancer Unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

The event has been organised by Gary Dunlop, who made his Irish road racing debut in 2016, and Irish Superbike champion Nikki Coates.

Thirteen-time Isle of Man TT winner Michael Dunlop and his older brother William will bolster the ranks of the road racers’ team alongside their cousin Gary, while North West 200 record holder Alastair Seeley, British Supersport contender Andrew Irwin and 2016 Superstock 600 Championship runner-up Carl Phillips are among the names representing Coates and the short circuit riders’ team.

The fundraising match will take place at Crusaders FC ground at Seaview on the Shore Road in Belfast on Sunday, January 29, with kick-off at 2pm. Admission will be £5 per person, with children admitted free. All proceeds will go towards the Children’s Cancer Unit Charity at the RVH.

A crowdfunding page has also been set up and almost £2,000 has been raised already. To make a donation online, visit: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/gary-dunlop

Co-organiser Dunlop told the News Letter he has been overwhelmed by the response so far.

“Myself and Nikki are into the football along with William and we enjoy the banter. We just said we’d all have to get a game together sometime and about a month or two ago we started talking about it and decided it would be a good idea to raise some money for charity as well.

“The response from the riders has been incredible and they’re more excited about this match than they are about the start of the new season!

“The game will be played at Seaview and one of the guys that Nikki is friendly with has a bit of clout at Crusaders, so they have very kindly offered us use of the pitch and we’re very grateful for that,” he added.

“We’re raising money for the Children’s Cancer Unit at the RVH and I think it’s something that everyone can identify with.

“We’re all soft when it comes to children. I’m good friends with a guy who comes into our bar and his wee girl was in the unit for nine months, so when you know someone who has gone through that, it really opens your eyes.

“We have individual sponsors for all the players, who will give £50 each, so that will rake in more money on the day. People from around the world have been in touch saying they will make donations and so far we’ve raised just under £2,000,” said Dunlop.

“The entrance fee of a fiver will also bring in more proceeds and plus we’ll be raffling the players’ shirts afterwards, so I’m sure the likes of Michael’s and William’s signed shirts will help us pull in some more money on the day too. Whatever we can do to raise a pound or two for this cause, we’ll do it.”

The event takes place two days after the Cornmarket Motorbike Awards in Belfast and team captain Dunlop joked that he has some concerns over the fitness of his players.

“The short circuit boys are pretty sensible but I’d be a bit worried about the condition of some our players,” he said.

“A few of them will probably be sweating the drink out of them but to be fair, it’s been a great response from all of them and everyone can’t do enough to help.”

Irish Superbike roads champion Derek Sheils has been forced to withdraw while Glenn Irwin was entered for the short circuit team, but will also reluctantly miss the event due to pre-season testing commitments with the PBM Be Wiser Ducati team. Their replacements will be confirmed in due course.

Road Racers Team:

Gary Dunlop (captain), William Dunlop, Michael Dunlop, Paul Robinson, Davy Morgan, Derek McGee, Dean Campbell, Paul Jordan, Davy Graham, Gary Jordan, Gary O’Brien, Steven Lynd, Callum Laidlaw.

Short Circuit Racers Team:

Nikki Coates (captain), Alastair Seeley, Andrew Irwin, Carl Phillips, Aaron Armstrong, Aaron Wright, Ali Kirk, Greg Wilson, Curtis McLernon, James Ging, Padraig Graham, Wallace McFall, Darryl Anderson, Anthony Derrane, Aaron Clifford.