Lynch and HSI still some distance apart

IT was always fairly obvious that Denis Lynch had reserved committing to the Irish team after his meeting with Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) and team manager Robert Splaine in February.

The statement that followed the meeting with HSI/Splaine on February 28 was notable for the fact there was no mention of agreement, only stating: “Horse Sport Ireland and Denis Lynch are pleased to confirm progress was made on all the issues raised and it is hoped that matters will be fully resolved shortly.”

The silence since has been notable and obviously those hopes have not been realised. Lynch testified to this last Sunday when asked following his World Cup win in ’s-Hertogenbosch if he had changed his mind, replying with an emphatic “at the moment, I am not jumping on the Irish team”.

This shows that, at the very least, the situation since the February meeting has not moved on enough to bring the German-based rider back on side.

Four weeks on, you would have to ask: Why?

A HSI spokesperson says “discussions are ongoing”, but for the sake of both parties and the sport, this must be resolved.

Lynch’s value to the Irish team — in a year when it will be chasing Olympic qualification at the European Championships — was reiterated last Sunday where it counts, in the competition arena, with victory in the season’s last World Cup qualifier.

He had to be in the top three and went all guns blazing on the giant Abbervail van het Dingeshof, that saw him book his place in the World Cup final in Leipzig, Germany, this month

The fact it was his first taste of World Cup success was a surprise.

“It’s my very first World Cup win — I’ve been trying to do this for the last 15 years and I’ve been placed plenty of times, but I’ve never come out on top, so it feels really good,” Lynch said. “I wanted to make it to the final and this was my last chance. I’m really happy it worked out.”

It is a testament to the strength of Lynch’s stable that he has yet to decide if he will ride the brilliant Lantinus in the final.

“My first choice, of course, would be Lantinus and he’s back in action now. He picked up a tendon injury at Basel so he’s been off for the last three months, but he’s come right back again. But I also have this horse and All Inclusive, so I’m not sure right now,” said Lynch.

If he is to be the first Irishman to win the World Cup, he will have to overcome Billy Twomey, the Nottinghamshire-based Corkman having qualified some time ago. He was among 17 combinations in last Sunday’s jump-off, but four faults with his second string stallion Je t’Aime Flamenco left him in 11th place.

- APART from the domination of young riders in the HSI Chippison Spring Tour, the other obvious thing is its popularity.

For example, last Sunday’s competitions in Maryville, Co Cork, had over 40 combinations, and Cavan had over 60, while next Sunday’s in Barnadown boasts 76 entries. It has not gone unnoticed by Showjumping Ireland chairman Christy Murphy.

“We are delighted with the support the HSI Chippison Spring Tour is receiving and also the support the Connolly’s Red Mills Spring Pony Tour got this year. The numbers involved have increased on 2010 and it augurs well for the year ahead.

“Also, TRM has come on board for three years to sponsor the Premier Series, which begins on April 23/24 at Louth County Show. ”

Gerard Clarke is one of these making the most of the Chippison Tour, the Meath young rider extending his lead last Sunday with his second successive victory, this time on the seven-year-old Ardagh Stein in Cavan.

At Maryville Equestrian Centre, Cork, youth also held sway against some more seasoned competitors — for example, Ireland team manager Robert Splaine and Francis Connors — with Hayley Dunne recording her first win on T d’Arco.

Connors was first to go in the 10-horse jump-off on Instant Karma and looked to be on course for victory until Dunne knocked two seconds off his time.

Liam O’Meara slotted into third with Mr Coolcaum, who is by the Irish draught Coolcaum Hill out of the thoroughbred mare Indian Ruler, while Ger O’Neill finished fourth on the seven-year-old stallion Z Wellie 72.

Connolly’s Red Mills Pony Spring Tour winners — 128cms: 1. Cormac Foley (30pts), 2. Susan Fitzpatrick (26.5pts), 3. Hannah O’Shea (22pts). 138cms: 1 Nathan Evans (28pts), Eq 2 Ellen Sweetnam (20pts) and Susan Fitzpatrick (20pts). 148cms: 1. Tom Foley (20.5pts), 2. Jeremy Sweetnam (20pts), 3. Darragh Ryan (16.5pts).

- ONE of the great Irish eventing horses, Spring Along, died of a suspected heart attack at Gatcombe Horse Trials.

The 18-year-old, by Pallas Digion, helped keep the Irish Sport Horse at the top of the world eventing rankings for many years.

The bay gelding died while jumping a fence in the open intermediate course with Daisy Berkeley.

This came just after the pair’s British open championship victory, also in Gatcombe.

Spring Along, who was bred by Patrick McConnell, Pallasmore Stud, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, was instrumental in Britain winning a gold medal at the European Championships in 2007, silver at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen in 2006 and bronze at the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong.

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