Horse Sport Ireland not ruling out taking Cian O’Connor case to the Swiss federal courts

Horse Sport Ireland has not ruled out taking the case involving Cian O’Connor to the Swiss federal courts.

On Monday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled against HSI and O’Connor in their appeal against the Federation Equestre Internationale following the debacle at the European Championships last August, when a member of the arena party ran in front of O’Connor and Good Luck, who then knocked a fence.

However, CAS only issued its judgment and did not give the grounds for its decision, saying this would “follow in the coming weeks”.

As such, HSI will wait until then before making any decision on an appeal, said HSI chief executive Damian McDonald.

“Other legal options may be open to us, including a challenge in the Swiss Courts.

“However, it is very unlikely we would go down that road. The international governing body, the FEI, provide for CAS as their ultimate arbiter for disputes in their general regulations and we would be reluctant to go beyond the FEI rules.

‘However, the Horse Sport Ireland board of directors set up a legal sub-group to advise on the case, which includes senior counsel Martin Heydan, Joe Fitzpatrick from Smithwick Solicitors in Kilkenny, and Phillip O’Connor. When the full CAS judgment is published, that group will review the reasons CAS provided for their decision and will then give their guidance to the board.”

On whether cost would be a determinant in its decision-making, McDonald said: “The potential cost of any further action would be something that the board of Horse Sport Ireland would take into account when making a decision about any matter, but this is unlikely to arise.”

In the vast majority of cases, appeals to the Swiss courts are only successful if procedural requirements have not been met in the case. However, a CAS decision was over-ruled on the merits of the case involving Brazilian footballer Matuzalém Francelino da Silva, who had been banned by Fifa.

Nevertheless, O’Connor told the Irish Examiner that he intended to plan for a year that could yet see Ireland field a team at Rio de Janeiro, though he admitted it was a long shot that would see Ireland as first reserve taking the place of a country that had withdrawn. There is precedence, as, in an ironic twist, Ireland opted not to send a show jumping team to the Sydney Olympics.

As it stands, if the qualified nations from the World Equestrian Games — the Netherlands, France, USA, Germany, or Sweden — do not take up their team slot, Ireland is next in line. Similarly with those that qualified at the European Championships: Switzerland, Britain and Spain. In addition, if Canada and Argentina, who qualified at the Pan Am Games do not take up their slots, and reserves Colombia and Chile then do not, Ireland will have the option.

In terms of individual places, it is almost certain that Bertram Allen will win a spot for Ireland with either Romanov or Molly Malone. He has a big lead in the Olympic rankings with both horses, ahead of a string of Irish riders and there is the prospect of a second place being available to Ireland.

However, it must be remembered that it is the Irish manager, Robert Splaine, who decides who goes to the Games, not the rider who has won the place. Denis Lynch was initially Ireland’s representative at the London Olympics, only to be replaced by O’Connor, who went on to win a bronze medal.

  • The highs and lows of show jumping were starkly contrasted for Irish riders at the inaugural Liverpool International Horse Show last weekend.

At the pinnacle was Billy Twomey, who gave a superlative performance to win the grand prix on Diaghilev, plus garner the show’s leading-rider prize.

The Nottinghamshire-based rider was understandably delighted. “It’s an unbelievable show here, and I have got some happy owners and some happy children tonight,” said Twomey, who lines out this weekend at the five-star show in Basel, Switzerland, alongside Denis Lynch.

Also at the top of her game was Aisling Byrne, who claimed the amateur grand prix, riding the Irish-bred 14-year-old mare Wellview Classic Dream, a result that helped her win a Mini car as the leading amateur rider.

At the other end of the spectrum was the sad news that Cameron Hanley had lost his top mount Antello Z after it sustained an injury during competition.

The Mayo native has gained a lot of respect for the manner in which he has bounced back from a fair share of knocks, including having all his top horses removed by their two Swiss owners in January of last year, before negotiations saw a return of Antello Z. In 2011, Hanley ruptured his patella tendon while jumping fences on foot as he played with his children at their German home. It took 17 operations and a two-year lay-off before he defied predictions and returned to competitive action.

Further bad news followed on Sunday morning when Sligo native Richard Howley discovered he had been stripped of his victory in the previous night’s U25 class, while his horse Clane K had been disqualified from the show. The reason: He had taken the horse outside of the designated area without permission, contravening FEI Article 159.5.5.

Yorkshire-based Howley told Horse & Hound he had gone to the stables around 11pm to take his horse out for a walk “as she’d been a bit gassy earlier in the week”.

“I brought the horse up to the stable exit and the girl on the door didn’t check my pass and allowed us out...

“If I’d known we weren’t allowed out, I’d never have gone. No way,” he said.

It’s understandable that he should be upset and there was a lot of social media activity about the persecuted Irish in the wake of Bertram Allen being disqualified after winning the grand prix at Olympia over blood on the flank of Quiet Easy. On the other hand, for Howley to say he wouldn’t have gone out if he knew it wasn’t allowed is a weak argument. You would have a certain sympathy for any rider who pays a high price for what at times can seem an innocuous offence, but, rules are there for a reason. You can argue their interpretation and application sometimes, but you cannot argue that ignorance of those rules amounts to any real defence.

Twomey described Howley as “a good lad”, but he said that “perhaps, there was a bit of naivete on his part”, adding the “stipendaries [stewards] have to enforce the rules, but I would say there is nothing in it”.

  • Carbery Pony Club is holding an Area 5 show jumping day at West Cork Equine Centre on January 17, beginning at 10am.

All clubs from Area 5 are urged to support the event. Carbery PRO Susan McCarthy said: “This is our own event and clubs have a responsibility to support it.”

Aside from that, she said there was plenty of incentive to attend, with fantastic prizes from Bucas, Gowla, Gain, Connolly’s Red Mills, O’Brien Saddlery, Horseware Ireland, and Bagoose, plus a set of shoes, including fitting, from farrier Chris O’Donovan.

A feature will be two team classes, along with the usual contests for all grades. Contact: 086-1681675.


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