Grand National winning jockey Davy Russell to return from prolonged injury at Downpatrick on Friday

The two-time Grand National winner Davy Russell is to ride at Downpatrick on Friday after completing a recovery from a vertebrae injury that sidelined the Irishman for 11 months.

Tiger Roll's mate Davy Russell is to make a welcome return on Friday.

One of the select few riders to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National, Russell has not been seen in the saddle since dislocating and fracturing vertebrae in a first-fence fall in the Munster National at Limerick in October aboard Doctor Duffy.

The 42-year-old had hoped to return in time for the Cheltenham Festival in March, but ultimately lost his race against time to be fit for the showpiece meeting, while he also decided against a comeback at Punchestown the following month.

Having given himself plenty of time to recover, Russell makes his comeback aboard Gordon Elliott's The Greek in Friday's opener in Northern Ireland, before partnering his stablemate The Abbey later in the afternoon.

He said: "It's been delayed a couple of times so it's great to get there. I feel great."

Speaking on RTE Radio's 'Game On' programme, Russell admitted the early stages of his recovery were difficult, but insists he never gave up hope of returning to the saddle.

"I just had to accept that I had a serious injury and that it was all about recovering and trying to get back," he added.

"I found it hard at the start when I couldn't drive and had to walk everywhere. Then I started cycling. I was trying to do as much exercise as I could because I didn't want to let my weight go up too much.

"I had a body cast and a neck cast and couldn't see behind me. It was a relief to get the cast and neck brace off.

"It was a challenge, but there was always light at the end of the tunnel.

"Once the operation went well and the recovery went well, I was always happy I was going to get there.

"I love winning. That's the one thing I missed. That feeling when you cross the line is irreplaceable really."

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