Ruby Walsh
The New Year brought me a new job and a new life when it comes to the big international sporting events featuring Ireland’s finest sportsmen and women.

This time last year, I was in a plastic tent at Prestbury Park racecourse just outside the Cotswolds town of Cheltenham.

Behind me, in another part of the biggest marquee you will ever see, an Irish band bashed out plastic Irish songs for a Guinness swilling audience who were either celebrating big wins or drowning their sorrows.

My third visit to the Cheltenham festival in as many years was as good as the previous two, despite the din in that tent. Watching Ruby Walsh charge up the most famous hill in racing aboard Hurricane Fly that afternoon really was a sight to behold.

An hour or so after the Champion Hurdle triumph, Ruby did it again aboard Quevega as the wonder horse, owned by two builders with more time than work on their hands these days, romped home for a third straight win.

Ruby was back on board both Hurricane Fly and Quevega again on Tuesday and the band bashed out all those come-all-ye’s, as my mother calls them, again in that bloody big tent. At least, I assume they did.

I didn’t get to Cheltenham this year. Now desk bound at the Irish headquarters of the Sun newspaper, I watched Ruby resume his festival duties in front of a big screen.
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My life has changed in the 12 months since last year’s trip to England, but so has Ruby’s.

This year he didn’t have it all his own way in the Champion Hurdle, far from it. The race was won by a Ruby all right, a horse called Rock on Ruby at a wonderful price of 11-1 if you backed it.

My money was on Hurricane Fly and it’s still on it as Ruby came home in third spot in a race he never looked like winning, if truth be told.

But not everything is different at Cheltenham this year.

Quevega, owned by the wonderfully named Hammer and Trowel syndicate from Clane, romped home at odds that won’t clear the mortgage, but did make the earlier defeat taste a little more acceptable.

Some things have changed since Cheltenham 2011 and some have stayed the same. That’s the beauty of sport -- no matter where you watch it.

So thanks Ruby. Watching Quevega win on screen was almost as pleasurable as watching it in the flesh this time last year. Almost.