The Irish eventing team kept their nerve to hold onto the silver medal on the final day of the eventing competition at the World Equestrian Games in North Carolina yesterday where Pádraig McCarthy added to the Irish haul by claiming silver in the individual competition.
Lying in second place behind Great Britain since Saturday’s impeccable cross-country performance, Ireland had Olympic champions France breathing down their necks in the bronze position.
The pressure came on when the French got off to a good start but the Irish dug deep to keep a grip on the silver medal.
In a nerve-wracking finale, Ireland got a glimpse of the gold until Ros Canter clinched it for the British with a high-pressure clear on Allstar B.
Cathal Daniels began the Irish challenge and got most of the way home on Rioghan Rua before a pole hit the deck for four faults.
Next for Ireland was Sam Watson who came through intact on Horseware Ardagh Highlight, and after McCarthy romped clear on Mr Chunky, the French were unable to wrestle the Irish out of the silver medal position.
It also meant McCarthy had taken over the lead in the individual standings.
Hopes of team gold were still alive when last Irish rider Sarah Eninis brought in Horseware Stellor Rebound.
The pairing had been in the overnight bronze position in the individual standings and a clear would have secured them a medal and increased the pressure on the British team, but one pole tumbled to leave Ireland on a team total of four faults and, at the finish, the Meath rider was agonisingly out of the individual medals in fifth.
It still meant Ros Canter had to clinch it for the British who had yet to register a clear round on the day but she not only secured team gold but scorched to the top of the individual standings as well, nudging McCarthy back to silver with only one rider left to go.
That was when the final moment of drama unfolded. German ace Ingrid Klimke on SAP Hale Bob OLD, the pairing who held the overnight lead in the individual race, set out to copperfasten their position.
With gold seemingly in their grasp, a pole gave way at the final fence leaving Canter with gold and McCarthy holding silver while Kilimke had to be content with bronze.
Ireland’s reserve rider Patricia Ryan, who was competing as an individual, had been out of medal contention since Saturday’s cross-country but before the Irish team riders had jumped she finished the competition in style by posting a clear round on Dunrath Eclipse to place 61st overall of the 83 who took part.
The Cork rider blamed ‘jockey error’ for the cross-country round that put her out of medal contention but had praise for her mount. “He knows his job at this stage — he was absolutely fantastic,” Ryan said.
Ireland had only ever won one medal at the World Equestrian Games before yesterday.
That came in 2002 when the games were held in Jerez in Spain where show jumper Dermott Lennon won the individual gold medal.
The Irish team have now secured their place at the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020.
As manager Sally Corscadden and her eventing team celebrated their medal haul last night, Ireland’s show jumping team were getting ready for their first event at the championships tomorrow.
Cian O’Connor (Good Luck), Shane Sweetnam (Chaqui Z), Shane Breen (Ipswich van de Wolfsakker) and Paul O’Shea (Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu) will face three consecutive days of team competition before Friday’s final.