This week Portugal hosts a round of the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) as the action moves to the coastal venue of Estoril. Irish riders Bertram Allen, Michael Duffy, Denis Lynch, Darragh Kenny, and Mark McAuley will all be in the hunt for individual purses as well as appearances for their respective Global Champions League (GCL) teams.
McAuley is the only one of the above who was at this past weekend’s Stockholm round where he helped the Madrid In Motion team to a third-place finish with a second-day clear on Jasco vd Bisschop having picked up eight faults on Valentino Tuiliere the previous day.
“I had two down yesterday but we fought hard and managed to jump a double-clear,” McAuley said, the other clear coming from Spanish team mate Eduardo Alvarez Aznar on Seringat.
“We are now also up to third in the league which we are very happy about,” McAuley added.
Cian O’Connor represented Valkenswaard United and had two four-fault rounds on PSG Final but the team still managed to take fifth. O’Connor will not be in Estoril and it be Bertram Allen who is most likely to feature for Valkenswaard this time as they seek to climb back up the table (currently 13th) to their more accustomed standing in the top two where they have been for the first three seasons.
Allen was on team duty with Ireland at the Nations Cup qualifier in Poland on Sunday where Rodrigo Pessoa’s side came second and could be considered unlucky not to have won.
The Wexford rider only got to jump once as he wasn’t needed second time out after his team-mates posted three clears in succession to stay on their first round total of four faults. On many occasions that would have been enough for victory, and it might have been here too with only France and Belgium capable of forcing a jump-off, but only if they could get clear rounds with their final riders.
The French team, who had to contest the second round without a discard score after Simon Delestre withdrew, nearly got there, Alexis Deroubais and Timon d’Aure looking on target until a pole tumbled at the last fence.
That left Belgium as the last team in Ireland’s way and Pieter Devos on Apart rescued the situation for his country in exemplary fashion to take the contest to a jump-off. Paul O’Shea, whose contribution to the day’s proceedings had been immense with a double-clear on Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu, was Ireland’s nominee for the head-to-head and unfortunately made his only mistake of the day at the first fence. Belgium brought back Devos on Apart and he duly lapped up the chance to go clear. It wasn’t as smooth as his earlier effort, with a few poles being hit, but unfortunately for Ireland they stayed off the ground. O’Shea had been faster on the clock, but that was now academic.
While it was tough to lose having gone so close, the result does give Ireland a healthy dose of points towards qualifying for the Nations Cup final in October and Pessoa and the team now have some breathing space before their final two qualifiers in the UK at Hickstead in late July and at home in the RDS in August.
Shane Sweetnam’s double-clear on his progressive Alejandro adds another dimension to the strength of the Irish squad, the Cork rider having already done the same with the more experienced Indra van de Oude Heihoef in the first qualifier in France last month albeit with one time fault, while Peter Moloney and Chianti’s Champion shook off four last-fence first round faults to deliver a splendid clear second time in what was the Waterford rider’s first qualifier.
The Irish manager will no doubt keep an eye on Geesteren this weekend which stages the Dutch Nations Cup. It’s not on Ireland’s list but it is a league fixture (each country contests four of the seven qualifiers) and so it will be of interest to see the points allocation from the event.
Meanwhile, this weekend Shane Breen and Richard Howley are among the Irish in action at Hickstead which hosts its Derby meeting.
In eventing Ireland’s Sam Watson and Tony Kennedy just missed the top 10 at the big German meeting at Luhmühlen, where this year’s European Championships will be held just over two months from now. Watson, on Tullabeg Flamenco, and Kennedy on Westeria Lane had just time faults in the cross-country phase, but four show jumping faults each saw them finish 12th and 13th respectively.