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Champions Crowned | Second Northern title for National Champion O'Neill

Having just fallen short in his bid to retain the Northern title last season, when finishing the season three winners shy of Jamie Codd, Barry O’Neill gets his hands on the Northern Champion prize for the second time within the last three years.

When first winning this regional title in 2018, finishing four clear of Codd, O’Neill recorded 16 winners for a strike rate of 17%, a figure he has more than multiplied this season, to produce one of the most dominant performances in a single region for some time.

Despite 12 of the fixtures in the region not taking place due to the Covid-19 pandemic bringing the 2019/20 season to a premature end, O’Neill still recorded 14 winners from a total of 33 rides, to give him a remarkable strike rate of 42% in the region.

That success is in a large part down to the excellent campaign that was also enjoyed by one of his long-standing supporters in David Christie.

The Fermanagh handler himself ended the season with a strike rate that was just shy of the 50% mark, and he supplied O’Neill with half of all his successes in the northern region, including his opening success in the region this season aboard the season’s champion point-to-pointer, Eddies Miracle at Portrush in October.

That 12-year-old would also provide him with a further success in the region at Tyrella in January, whilst a number of his stable companions played a big part in the one double, pair of trebles, and notable four-timer that he enjoyed in the northern region, as he teamed-up successfully with the Christie-trained Dylrow, On The Sod, and Winged Leader at other points of the season.

Autumn fixtures at Loughanmore and Kirkistown provided O’Neill with a pair of trebles, but one of his most notable days of the season came at Farmacaffley in February, where he rode the second of his two four-timers during the campaign, following up the same feat he had achieved at Castletown-Geoghegan in October.

At the Armagh venue, he was successful aboard both On The Sod and Winged Leader for Christie, with the further winners coming courtesy of Marshall Watson’s Danjaman and a standout ride aboard Westy Fox from the Jim Dreaper yard.

That proved to be the final of his 14 winners in the region for the season, leaving him as the only rider in the region to reach double figures, with former regional champion finishing second on five winners, with Wexford pair of Jamie Codd and Rob James one further win back on four.

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