Furlong upbeat about umbrella body moves

THE chairwoman of the Show Jumping Association of Ireland (SJAI), Patricia Furlong, yesterday welcomed the latest moves at the formation of an umbrella body for equestrianism.

Speaking following a presentation last week by Implementation Group chairman Michael Dowling, at which he outlined the final draft plans for the body, she said the association anticipated playing a positive role in the body.

Ms Furlong said that initially the SJAI had concerns about the draft plans, but these had been alleviated at what she described as “a very positive meeting”.

“Upon initial inspection of the proposals by the SJAI executive, a number of questions arose. Specifically, that the proposals would conform to the Connellan Report in that the SJAI would nominate four representatives on the executive of the new body, that our assets would be ring-fenced and that our identity as an organisation would be maintained.”

Ms Furlong stressed that these concerns were common to many of the affiliates and she was happy to say the SJAI would be playing a full part in HSI, as envisaged in the Connellan Report, the original template for the umbrella body.

She said that, on a personal note, she was delighted to have left a meeting that had been “purely positive”.

She said one element of the plan needed discussion by the SJAI executive. “There is one major deviation from the Connellan Report that the SJAI executive must yet agree on, which is that the Implementation Group have done away with the notion of a council of 59 and a chairman and replaced it with a proposal for two advisory groups: one on the breeding sector, the other made up of one representative from each of the 15 affiliates.

“However, without pre-empting any decision by the executive, I do not see a major problem with this.”

After last week’s presentation, Mr Dowling said: “I’m happy the proposals for the new body were, in general, positively received by the representatives of the organisations present. I feel that the meeting was another definite step towards the formation of Horse Sport Ireland.”

The gathering at the Stand House Hotel, the Curragh, Kildare, was attended by representatives of most of the EFI affiliates.

The panel included Irish Horse Board chairman Joe Walsh and EFI president Charles Powell. Also in attendance were Irish Sports Council chief executive John Treacy, EFI secretary general Dan Butler, and Irish Horse Board chief executive Nicholas Finnerty.

Mr Dowling outlined the final draft document on the formation of Horse Sport Ireland presented to Sports, Arts and Tourism Minister John O'Donoghue and Agriculture and Food Minister Mary Coughlan TD.

The EFI affiliate organisations have until today to tender any final questions on the new body to the EFI. Any questions will be responded to within seven days and the affiliates will then have until July 28 to state their final positions on the formation of HSI.

The bodies are also expected to nominate their representatives to the interim board by July 28 and Ms Furlong yesterday said the SJAI would decide its quartet at its next executive meeting.

Meanwhile, she said the association had received 10 applications for the post of director general. She said a shortlist would be drawn up and interviews would begin shortly.

* FRANCIS CONNORS is on course for his eighth national league title after he notched up his season’s hat-trick of grand prix wins at Charleville, Cork, last Sunday.

Riding John Murphy’s Merlin’s Magic, the seven times national champion took victory by over a second in a seven-horse jump-off when last to go, helping him to copper-fasten his lead in the Boswell Grand Prix League.

Connors’ double clear was matched only by second-last to go, Trevor Breen, but the latter’s time on James Costigan’s Always Cullohill left the door ajar.

With 56 points, Connors now holds a 15-point advantage over fellow Waterford man Tholm Keane.

Keane improved to second spot in the league when third in Charleville with Ronan Tynan’s Krafty Jack.

The Cappoquin rider set a cracking pace in the jump-off, but was denied a weekend double by a mistake at the last fence, a new addition to the course.

Keane travelled to the Cork venue on the back of his first league win on Saturday in Kilrush. This came at the expense of Joan Keane. (Bouncing Royal), the Newmarket-on-Fergus-based rider quarter of a second adrift of the winner.

Keane’s weekend exploits have sees his league tally rise to 41, giving him a five-point advantage over third-placed Paul O'Shea.

* CONOR SWAIL ensured Ireland did not leave empty-handed from Drammen, Norway, when winning the grand prix last Sunday.

The Down rider produced one of only two double clears in the 1.60m class, with the eight-year-old Dutch-bred Rivaal belying his inexperience to help the Malahide-based rider come home two-and-a-half seconds ahead of Italian Filippo Moyersoen on Loro Piana Zenzero Di Santa Marta.

On Friday, Swail lined out on the team that finished fifth of nine teams in the nations cup at the four-star show. Riding Nepomuk, the Malahide-based finished with nine and four, Olive Clarke posted eight and 12 with Spitfield, while Edward Little had eight in round one with Belvedere, but did not have to jump in the second round. Best of the Irish was Commandant Gerry Flynn (Mo Chroí), finishing with one fault in his opener, but returning with eight in round two as Ireland amassed a total of 41.

Denmark won on a score of 24.

In the Monte Carlo grand prix, Jessica Kürten had to settle for fifth place when four-faulting in the second round. One of nine to make the jump-off, the 36-year-old world number two rider was last to go. Despite finishing with the fastest time, Castle Forbes Libertina’s second-round aberration at the planks ensured Belgian Ludo Philippaerts (Parco) took the top prize.

The German-based Antrim rider was bidding for a brace, having won the speed class on Thursday with Castle Forbes Maike. She followed this with second in the day’s jump-off class on Castle Forbes Libertina.

* IRELAND and the Netherlands are locked in a battle at the bottom of the Samsung Super League following last weekend’s nations cup at Rotterdam. Ireland finished seventh of the eight countries in the fifth leg of the league, one better than the hosts. While the result did not lift Ireland off the bottom of the league — on nine points — it saw them cut the Dutch league advantage to 0.625 points. Britain are in sixth place, with a cushion of over six points, on 16. Germany lead the league on 34.125, despite only finishing fifth last weekend.

Ireland’s tally at the Dutch venue was 33 faults, having been in joint third at the half-way stage on 12. Cian O’Connor (Irish Independent Echo Beach) had four faults each round, with Capt Shane Carey (Killossery) matching him apart from an added time fault second time out. Shane Breen (World Cruise) started with four faults, but returned with 12 in round two. The return of Billy Twomey’s Luidam proved inauspicious, with scores of 17 faults in each round. Victory went to Switzerland on 12 faults.

The next round of the league takes place at Hickstead (July 26-30) and Ireland will be eagerly anticipating the return of US-based Kevin Babington and Carling King.

Twomey, meanwhile, was the only Irish rider to record a win at Rotterdam, taking Saturday’s young horse class with Senator W.

* THE rescheduled Bandon Gymkhana takes places next Sunday, having been deferred from May. There is one change to the schedule as published in the SJAI’s May bulletin, with a 1.00m competition replacing the 1.30m class. The venue is Bandon showgrounds, with jumping starting at 10am. Enquiries: 086/1563684.

Meanwhile, a €1,000 Horse Open class forms the feature at next Thursday’s Tallow Show. There is also a Boomerang Qualifier and the usual pony competitions. Enquiries: 087/2455781.

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