Good start, but momentum must be maintained

IRELAND’S joint second place in the opening leg of the Samsung Super League was as good as could be hoped for, but the fact it was shared with Switzerland and the US dented the value of the performance in terms of points gained.

While the three countries are one from the top on the league table, the fact is each has 5.33 points, just 2.33 more than the Netherlands, with Britain

That is not to diminish the battling display that saw Robert Splaine’s team climb from equal fifth place at the halfway stage, it merely highlights that the good start will count for nothing unless the momentum is maintained in Rome next Friday.

If last week’s competition taught us anything, it is the unpredictable nature of the sport. Halfway leaders Britain plummeted to sixth, while the normally strong Germany ended the competition in seventh.

Belgium bucked the trend, running out worthy winners by eight faults, their consistency throughout the competition epitomised by Ludo Philippaerts, who, with Cavalor’s Winningmood, produced one of only two double clears.

The hero for Ireland was anchorman Denis Lynch, who opened with a four-fault tally in round one on Lantinus, but produced a vital clear on his return to ensure Ireland finished on a total of 20 faults.

Putting it in context was the fact that just one aberration by the Tipperary rider would have dropped Ireland to seventh place, with equal fifth-placed Netherlands and France ending on 21 faults and Britain on 23 faults.

Edward Doyle, riding Sequoyah Farms Utopia, and pathfinder Captain Shane Carey on River Foyle had matched Lynch’s four faults in round one, with Cian O’Connor providing the discard score on Irish Independent Echo Beach with 16 faults.

The Meath-based rider turned it around on his second outing adding just four to the tally. Doyle did likewise, with Capt Carey this time the discard man on 12.

Jessica Kürten’s name is expected to be on the squad sheet for Rome when it is revealed early next week and she is likely to line out with Quibell. While she has yet to declare her interest or lack thereof in competing at the Olympics, if the answer is in the negative, Ireland will have a ready replacement in Lynch if he so desired.

The German-based rider proved his ability again when winning the grand prix at La Baule with Lantinus. Second to go in a nine-horse jump-off, his time left his rivals struggling, with only France’s Olivier Robert and Le Galant matching his jump-off clear.

Meanwhile, Ireland send out two teams this weekend in non-Super League shows, with Splaine in Madrid and Tommy Brennan — one of the HSI Jumping Committee advisors — in Copenhagen.

Cameron Hanley (SIEC Royal Star and SIEC Concept), Marion Hughes (HHS Cheiro, Heritage Transmission), Cian O’Connor (Rancorrado, Complete) — each on Splaine’s 10-rider panel for the first three Super League shows — line out at the five-star show in the Spanish capital, where they are joined by Captain David O’Brien (Kiltoom and Mo Chroí). The quartet aiming to impress in Copenhagen is: Shane Breen (Little Ear), Francis Connors (Merlin’s Magic), Neil Fearon (Teulada) and Niall Talbot and (Tequi d’I CH).

Meanwhile, tomorrow night sees the beginning of Setanta coverage of the Super League. It will involve eight one-hour highlights programmes from each of the events, which will be broadcast at 8pm on the Saturday evening of the weekend following the event on the Setanta Ireland channel.

* LOUISE Lyons will have good reason to hope she is on high performance manager Ginny Elliot’s elite-rider list after finishing 10th place in the World Cup qualifier at Chatsworth, England, last weekend.

Lyons scored 73.8 penalties on Watership Down, while Bandon’s Patricia Ryan also had reason to be pleased, riding Fernhill Clover Mist to ninth place in Section H of the CIC three-star, the Sydney Olympian finishing on 78 penalties.

Elliot was expected to name her list this week, but it has been deferred until next week. The Briton and her high performance committee are deliberating whether sending a team to the Olympics is a realistic prospect.

While cost should not be a determining factor, it is understood that the Olympic organising committee have agreed to pay for European horses to be flown from Amsterdam to Hong Kong. Thus, the cost to Horse Sport Ireland of sending a team to the Games is estimated at less than €100,000.

* HARRY MARSHALL is the new leader in the Citroen ShowjumpingIreland Premier Series, following an impressive win in the second leg at Barnadown Show in Gorey, Co Wexford, last Sunday.

The 54-year-old Antrim rider and the eight-year-old mare Mandrin Smoke had almost three-and-a-half seconds to spare, with Trevor Breen on Always Cullohill the nearest challenger.

To further emphasise his dominance, Marshall also placed third on Audi’s Morningstar with the competition’s only other double clear. He now tops the series leaderboard on 11 points, though Waterford’s Tholm Keane is just a point behind.

The next Premier Series Grand Prix takes place at Mullingar on June 2.

* THE Munster Greyhound Night 1.10m series moves this Sunday to Bandon Agricultural Show in Cork, where there will be €600 on offer. Other classes include the 1.20m horses and Horse Sport Ireland Amateur Qualifier.

Two arenas are dedicated to ponies, where a wide range of classes includes qualifiers for Cork/Kerry Leagues at B/C grades in the three height categories. Competition begins at 9.30am sharp.

* MEMBERS of the Association of Irish Riding Establishments are to stage a training and refresher course for instructors and interested parties. The course will be given by Jessica Sorely, BHSI. There is no cost for the course, which takes place at Bridestown Towers Equestrian Centre, Glenville, Co Cork on Monday, May 26, from 2pm-6pm. Enquiries: 087-9627302 and 086-8322795.

* RENOWNED dressage and eventing trainer Jennie Loriston-Clarke will be at Maryville Stables, Carrigaline, Co Cork, on Monday and Tuesday, giving a presentation and lessons. Her Monday presentation, from 4pm-9pm, is entitled: The dressage horse from preliminary to grand prix: the judge’s perspective. On Tuesday, she will give a series of private lessons, which are open to public viewing. Enquiries: 086/0681998.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.


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