Ireland’s new show jumping team manager Rodrigo Pessoa maintains that Irish teams have been underperforming and says that his goal is to transfer good individual performances to better team effect.
“The results individually have been very good but they have underperformed in championships dramatically, which is not good,” said Pessoa yesterday.
“It’s something that we are really looking forward to change. I am here to help solve this.”
The multi-decorated Brazilian rider, son of the legendary Nelson Pessoa, was speaking at a press conference in the Irish Sports Centre in Dublin.
“Ireland is a horse country, with great riders, with great depth, but the last time they were on a podium (in major championships) was 2001.
“It’s hard to think with all those wins, with all those good riders, we weren’t able for some reason to do well in championships.
“I felt when I spoke to many of the riders that they want change as well. We hope that we can put everything together and deliver as a group.”
He cautioned that the Aga Khan Trophy at Dublin Horse Show in August, while important, will not be his priority this year, as he would save the best combinations for the European Championships which come just weeks later. “The calender is what it is and obviously our main horses will not be able to compete in Dublin, but we will field the best team that we have to try to put our hands on this beautiful trophy.”
Pessoa said that he would hold a training camp in advance of the Europeans. “Nothing special happens there - it’s just that we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together and we understand what we are there for. All of this is mental because they ride well, the horses are good, but the last piece of the puzzle is the mental part.”
At the press conference Pessoa named his squad for next week’s competitive Nations Cup at La Baule, France. In the squad will be Shane Sweetnam, Shane Breen, Denis Lynch, Kevin Babington, and young rider Michael Duffy who served up a clear round in last week’s Nations Cup at Lummen.
That occasion was Pessoa’s debut as Ireland manager, and the three young riders he chose (Paul Kennedy, Richard Howley and Duffy) did well but the experienced Dermott Lennon posted the most faults from an Irish viewpoint. The team finished sixth, in the fixture which was part of the Europe Division 1 League, but not one of Ireland’s points-scoring rounds. Afterwards Pessoa revealed that Lennon had been carrying an injury, and when asked by the Irish Examiner yesterday if he could have opted to replace Lennon with Anthony Condon, who was also in Lummen, Pessoa acknowledged that he had taken a chance with Lennon. “I took a shot at Dermott and thought that he was going to be ok,” he said.
“These are things that we have to deal with. You think the experienced riders can pull it off. He’ll be called back in a couple of weeks and I hope he’ll be better.”
Pessoa has the added problem of having to plan for the next month without the services of Cian O’Connor, who picked up an injury two weeks ago while competing with Super Sox in Germany. Nevertheless he is looking forward to his first competitive bow at La Baule.
“I’m really confident about the combinations that we have and I am really looking forward to next week”, the Brazilian said.
Also at the conference Horse Sport Ireland announced new sponsorship deals for the Irish show jumping team from Devenish and The Underwriting Exchange.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved