Ireland to face nine rivals for Olympic show jumping spot in Rotterdam

The Irish show jumping team will be vying with nine other nations for an Olympic place when they head to the European Championships in Rotterdam next month.

Ireland to face nine rivals for Olympic show jumping spot in Rotterdam

The Irish show jumping team will be vying with nine other nations for an Olympic place when they head to the European Championships in Rotterdam next month.

Who exactly stands in Ireland’s way has become clear following the publication of the nominated entries list by the FEI in the past week.

In all, 17 countries are set to compete for team medals at the Euros, but seven of those will not be blocking Ireland’s progress in terms of a hoped-for Tokyo ticket. Those taking part who have already booked their Olympic passage are Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Ukraine, and Israel, while Poland are not eligible since their chance came (and narrowly evaporated) via a different route.

That leaves 10 countries including Ireland searching for one of the three Olympic places that are on offer from these Championships. The toughest opposition is likely to come from Italy, France, Belgium, and Great Britain, while the other five countries with hopes are Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, and Spain.

Ireland are, of course, the defending European champions, having triumphed in 2017. Any colour medal this time around would guarantee one of those three Olympic places, but in that regard Ireland only have to finish in the top three among the teams not already qualified, which is where the subplot between Ireland and the other nine countries will take place.

If all that fails to work out, there is one more chance left. It will come at the Nations Cup final which is being staged in Barcelona in the first week of October. Only one Tokyo 2020 place is on offer there and will go to the highest-placed nation which by then has not secured an Olympic slot. That place, though, will be available not just to Europeans but to any team from around the world making the final.

The good news for Ireland on that front is that last weekend’s runner-up place in the Nations Cup of Great Britain at Hickstead has secured enough points to all but guarantee Ireland a place at that Barcelona showdown.

Team Ireland manager Rodrigo Pessoa could have been bringing his team to the Aga Khan contest at next week’s Dublin Horse Show with Barcelona qualification up in the air, but now all Ireland have to do is turn up and complete the fixture (i.e not suffer a team elimination) and they will be safely there.

Of course Pessoa and his team will be going all-out for a home win at the RDS. Championship medals and Olympic participation apart, the manager is well aware of the importance of the Dublin contest to Irish fans and on Monday he named a strong line-up for this year’s event. Cian O’Connor, Darragh Kenny, Shane Sweetnam, and Paul O’Shea will fly the flag, with Peter Moloney nominated as the reserve. Sweetnam will partner Chaqui Z, his outstanding performer from that European Championship victory two years ago. O’Connor will line out with one of his newer aspirants PSG Final while Kenny is set to ride Important de Muze. Fourth member Paul O’Shea brings Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu, his double-clear mount from a Nations Cup qualifier in Poland earlier in the campaign. Reserve rider Peter Moloney has been a feature of Pessoa’s teams this season, turning in one clear round on each of three outings with Chianti’s Champion. For the reserve slot he is listed with Ornellaia.

In the meantime, there are other purses to be chased this weekend, with high stakes as usual on the Global Champions Tour which visits London as the 14th venue on the circuit. Bertram Allen, Shane Breen, Darragh Kenny, Mark McAuley, Denis Lynch, and Shane Sweetnam will be in the hunt in individual classes and for their respective Global Champiions League teams.

Sam Watson’s win at Camphire International Horse Trials at Cappoquin in Waterford on Sunday will be remembered as the event following which multi-decorated rider Mark Todd of New Zealand announced his retirement from competition. He finished fifth in the contest on Leonidas II, with Watson outdoing the entire field on Imperial Sky. Todd did go out with a win though as New Zealand claimed the team event, with Ireland taking a very creditable second place.

Ireland’s recently crowned European Junior gold-medalist Kate Derwin came out on top in the TRM/Horse Sport Ireland New Heights Champions Grand Prix at Maryville in Cork on Sunday. It turned into a battle of the champions with Derwin on Deep Pockets relegating former world championship winner Dermott Lennon to second place on Gelvins Touch. Tim MacDonagh posted another good result in the series with Hollypark Galloway in third, but it was the fourth-placed combination of Francis Connors and Erne Goldilocks who now move to the top of the table with only one more round to be contested. That takes place in Wexford at Barnadown at the end of August.

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