Ennis vows to put on championships to truly remember

THE return of the National Show Jumping Championships to Ennis Showgrounds can only be described as a victory for the sport and that misnomer that is common sense.

The championships were in danger of becoming a ping pong ball. Firstly, they were granted to Ennis by Show Jumping Ireland’s (SJI) National Competitions Committee (NCC), before being withdrawn/cancelled by the SJI’s National Executive, following a complaint of poor ground at recent RDS qualifiers.

Then, SJI chairman Christy Murphy took up an invitation to visit Ennis, which was followed last Monday by a delegation from the show meeting the NCC, which batted the ball back to the executive, recommending that the championships be returned to the Clare venue under a revised format.

The executive met on Tuesday evening and while even some insiders considered it unlikely it would take up the recommendation, to the delight of the Ennis organisers, the championships were reinstated.

Yesterday, SJI chairman Murphy said the proposition of a new format — featuring national grand prix, national speed and a national lady championships — was crucial in the decision.

“The new format was seen to be innovative and best suited to the facilities in Ennis. With a population of 30,000 in the town, it was felt that the exposure for show jumping would be very high. Also, the enthusiasm of the committee was a major factor in swaying the executive,” he said.

In Wednesday’s Irish Examiner, Ennis committee member Jimmy Quinn expressed his delight. Yesterday, he acknowledged Ennis would need to prove itself worthy of the championships, which take place from August 30 to September 1.

“We have a top-class arena, modelled on the RDS and Balmoral. In fact, we sourced the same sand as used in Balmoral. Also, Ennis is a tourist town, with a good infrastructure and good amenities. I guarantee this will change the whole atmosphere of the championships for the good. The feedback from riders in recent years was that the championships were too big and lacked atmosphere. Those of us around long enough to remember when Salthill in Galway was the venue recall only good times and we hope to revive those,” said Quinn.

The championships decision reaffirms that the executive should be looking to work with grassroots and while it may not be a major milestone, one may be on the horizon, with speculation this week that the insurance issue that has clouded the sport in recent years could be near resolution.

Undoubtedly, a perception exists that the level of cover provided by the SJI insurance for shows is inadequate. This was highlighted, in particular, by Millstreet, which last year went as far as to stage an “independent show” under its own insurance. The issue was also the impetus for the formation of the Irish Show Jumping Centres Group.

Yesterday, Murphy said he was hopeful a development was in the offing that would see the issue clarified. “The only thing I will say is that there have been moves and it is hoped there will be positive news in the next week,” said the Kildare man.

Meanwhile, Murphy has confirmed that all affiliation fees and outstanding monies have been paid to Horse Sport Ireland (HSI), to the satisfaction of both parties.

The fees had been withheld since 2008, with the SJI questioning how they should be determined. Murphy would not disclose how much had been paid, but he said that this year’s figure would be based on the previous year’s turnover, according to an agreement reached last year between HSI and SJI. The SJI turnover for last year exceeded €2m; accordingly the association is liable for €20,000 in affiliation fees.

lTHE Children on Horses, Juniors and Young Riders show jumping squads for the 2011 European Championships in Comporta, Portugal were announced this week by Horse Sport Ireland. The event takes place from July 4-10.

Team Ireland Equestrian’s Children on Horses/Juniors/Young Riders show jumping high performance coach John Ledingham said: “I am delighted that we have Children on Horses and Junior teams as well two Young Rider individuals going to this year’s European Championships in Portugal.

“Last year in Jardy, the Children on Horses team won a bronze medal. Two members of this team, Tim McDonagh and Cormac Hanley, are back to see if they can improve on that. The horses have a 2,800km, five-day journey and will be leaving Ireland on Monday, June 27.

“With temperatures expected to be in the mid to high 30s, this will be a very challenging championships for our underage teams.”

Children on Horses: Cormac Hanley (Pageant Prince or Vigo), Tommy Harty (Young Limerick), Tim MacDonagh (Cor D’Alou), Hannah Smyth (Heman), Kerry Taggert (Miss Contradiction or X Factor).

Juniors: Jack Dodd (Master or Trebox Acorada), Edward Doyle Jnr (Flexing), Michael Duffy (Killard Horizon), Hayley Dunne (T D’Arco), Sven Hadley (Adelgonde Z). Non travelling reserve: Christian Kelly (Creata Van Ten Biesen).

Young Riders: Gerard Clarke (Kellswater Crimson), Conor Drain (Fables).

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