Games money well spent, insists O’Connor

CIAN O’CONNOR is unequivocal in his belief the €300,000 reportedly spent by Horse Sport Ireland on participation in the recent Alltech World Equestrian Games was not excessive.

On the contrary, he says that while objectives were not achieved, you still have to invest, relative to other countries the money was small and, indeed, some value was had in terms of buying experience.

“It is a cheap shot to question how the money was spent in terms of winning medals,” said O’Connor yesterday. “Of course it is a disappointment that we did not do well, but from every situation you can learn something.

“It must be remembered many countries had greater budgets than us; some did well, some didn’t and, by comparison, we are not an overly-funded team.”

Without question, if Ireland’s show jumpers and eventers had acquitted themselves and achieved their(minimum) requirement of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics, the €300,000 would have been deemed money well spent. What skews the perspective in terms of the value-for-money debate is that O’Connor (K Club Lady), Billy Twomey (Tinka’s Serenade), Denis Lynch (Lantinus) and Dermott Lennon (Hallmark Elite) went to Kentucky carrying the weight of expectation of an outside chance of winning gold and then failed to make it past the first round of the nations cup. This put matters into sharp focus. O’Connor followed the script until K Club Lady picked up an injury and was the leading Irish rider after the first day’s speed class. Twomey proved the standard bearer, his three jumping clears making him the only Irishman to make the penultimate round battle for individual honours.

Lynch would acknowledge his performance did not match expectation, while hopes that Dermott Lennon and Hallmark Elite could belie the notion that they were the weak link in the chain proved unfounded.

O’Connor says, however, that planning can only take a team so far and, even if you factor into the equation the possibility of unforeseen circumstances, all the preparations may still not add up to a medal due, in large part, to the fact horses have a mind of their own and sport is not always an exact science.

O’Connor sums it up thus: “It’s quite simple; in a team of four, you need at least three riders and three horses producing the goods. You can carry one combination not doing well, but not two and no amount of planning by administrators can change it if a horse has an off day. You are dealing with all sorts of variables and, for us in the thick of it, many things can happen that barstool jockeys on the outside are not aware of.

“The bottom line is that everyone tried their best and, if Denis had jumped clear in the first round of the nations cup, we would have putourselves in the bronze medal position, instead of going out of the competition. I think, though, that it is unfair to single out Denis; who are we to question the world’s number six rider. We compete as a team, we rise and fall as a team and what happened just demonstrates that one round can change a situation for that team from hero to zero.”

lEFFORTS were underway yesterday to finalise a joint statement between Green Glens proprietor Noel C Duggan and Showjumping Ireland to bring their dispute to a conclusion.

On Wednesday, the SJI national executive discussed a directive given by members at the recent AGM that fines and sanctions be scrapped for members and officials who participated in August’s “independent” Millstreet Show, upon receipt of outstanding levies from Mr Duggan.

A well-placed source yesterday said the joint statement should be issued within the next few days.

* THERE was a 30% clearance rate at last Saturday’s horse sale at the Green Glens Arena in Millstreet, but organisers, the West Cork Horse Breeders (WCHB), said the only “disappointment” was at the prices fetched. It was noted, though, in a press release issued by WCHB chairman Kieran O’Gorman breeders took a pragmatic view, driven by the fact they were “overstocked heading into a long winter”.

The WCHB were pleased with the entry of 110 horses and said the general feeling was that the sale was a wise move and that the Green Glens had “huge potential for the horse fraternity in the south of Ireland”.

The early morning foal show class was said to be very successful, with Patrick Barry’s colt foal by West Coast Cavalier taking the Red Ribbon and the filly foal class going to Donal Coomey’s By Floating Clover.


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