Nations cups dominated last week’s show jumping headlines, but the international limelight over the next few days switches to the relatively new, mixed-nationality format that is the Global Champions League (GCL), writes Mike Dunne.
Now in its second year, the GCL is part of the longer-standing Global Champions Tour circuit, and Madrid is the venue for what is the fourth round this season.
Five Irish riders are involved with GCL teams this term, whereas last year only Bertram Allen participated, to great effect as it turned out, with his team Valkenswaard United being crowned inaugural champions after the final round in Doha, Qatar, last November. Allen competes again with Valkenswaard in the current campaign, while Darragh Kenny (Paris Panthers), Michael Kearins (Moscow Bears), and Cian O’Connor (Miami Glory) joined in for the new season, with Denis Lynch being a late addition to the Miami squad. Lynch makes his GCL debut for Miami in tomorrow’s opening round, alongside Britain’s Scott Brash, while squad member O’Connor remains sidelined due to injury.
Last Friday’s victory in the Division 2 Nations Cup of Norway in Drammen evoked an era when army riders and horses were prolific on Irish show jumping teams. Capt Geoff Curran was last to go for the team, and, with the Minister for Defence’s Ringwood Glen, he clinched the contest with the closing round. Curran had to get home with no more than four faults, and, after an error at the water jump, could not afford a time fault as well, which would have meant a tie with Belgium. He got there with 0.21 of a second to spare.
The Irish had to rally after the worst of starts, when Alexander Butler and Hallowberry Cruz retired. Mark McAuley (Utchan De Belheme), Cameron Hanley (Quirex), and Curran overcame that handicap to put Ireland into first place at halfway, and the team kept a dogged Belgian outfit at bay in the second round to claim victory.
Sweet it was too for chef d’equipe Michael Blake, recently appointed as development manager to work in tandem with the premier squad’s new boss Rodrigo Pessoa. Blake has overseen Irish teams at three nations cups this year and they have won all three, the other two being in Florida, at Ocala and Wellington.
Pessoa’s first competitive outing was on the same day in the Division 1 Nations Cup of France at La Baule, and the third place finish for the Irish was a creditworthy result. Maintaining that level of performance during their six qualifiers would see them retain their top-level status and qualify for the annual final in Barcelona in September.
On Tuesday of this week, Pessoa named his squad for the next league outing in Rome a week on Friday. He has retained Shane Sweetnam (Chaqui Z), Michael Duffy (Belcanto Z), and Shane Breen (Golden Hawk) from the team that competed in France, and brought in Paul Kennedy (Cartown Danger Mouse), who impressed the new manager at Lummen in April. Mark McAuley (Utchan De Belheme) has been rewarded with a switch from Division 2 level to Division 1.
Also on Tuesday, Michael Blake named a squad of six riders for the next Division 2 outing, in Portugal on the same day. True to the developmental nature of his role, he names a completely different crew to that which delivered in Drammen, with squad debuts going to Sophie Dalm (Remake Lande) and Derek McCoppin (Zaire), alongside Greg Broderick (Charmeur), David Simpson (Keoki), Michael Pender (Can Ya Makan) and Dermott Lennon (Fleur IV).
Liam O’Meara won the latest round of the National Grand Prix League on Curraghgraigue Jack Take Flight at Cavan Equestrian Centre on Sunday, his third successive win. The Tipperary rider has a commanding lead in the series going into this weekend’s event in Galway.
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