Ireland are set to field their strongest show jumping team of the season so far for the Swedish Nations Cup at Falsterbo on Friday.
Manager Rodrigo Pessoa’s five-member squad includes the country’s three highest-ranked riders — Bertram Allen, Cian O’Connor, and Denis Lynch - the first time he has had all three in one squad.
Also included are Shane Sweetnam and Mark McAuley, with Pessoa due to name his final four tomorrow.
Allen is set to once again partner Hector van d’Abdijhoeve, as he did in the last qualifier in Rotterdam where the pairing jumped a superb double-clear, though the team only finished tied for fifth.
O’Connor brings Callisto for the event, with Lynch named to ride All Star. Sweetnam and Chaqui Z will jump for the third time in this year’s qualifiers if named in the final four, while McAuley who has made two appearances under Pessoa with Utchan De Belheme, has Miebello at the ready on this occasion.
The Swedish contest will be the fourth of Ireland’s six Europe Division 1 qualifiers, after a third, a joint-third and a joint-fifth placing in the three to date.
No doubt Pessoa would like to secure his first competitive win since taking the Irish helm early this year, but in one sense he is under less pressure now than in the first months of his tenure.
The world governing body, the FEI, recently decided that next year’s Europe Division 1 league will consist of 10 teams - the eight current members will be joined by two promoted teams, meaning that there will be no relegation from the elite division at the end of the current campaign.
That’s one worry out of the way. The goal now left to be achieved from the league is qualification for the annual final in Barcelona in September.
Due to its elite status, Europe Division 1 holds seven slots out of the 18 available for Barcelona, so the target now is, simply, not to finish at the bottom of the eight-team league.
However, there are no minnows waiting to be rolled over in this division, so there is still work to be done.
Friday’s affair will feature eight nations, with Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland competing for points, while USA (who have already qualified for Barcelona from their own division) and Norway will complete the line-up.
The Swedes, who won the last round in Rotterdam, will be the team to beat in their home event, but of the other countries involved, it is the Irish who appear to be playing the strongest hand this time around.
As is common in the FEI Nations Cup series, finding out who stands where is not easy mid-season.
Sweden, for instance, have used five of their six qualifiers to date whereas Ireland have had only three, and to complicate matters further, only the best four results will count for each country when they have completed all six fixtures.
It does look as if Italy and Sweden have already done enough to book their Final tickets, and Switzerland have gone well to date too. At the other end of affairs, Spain and Netherlands need some improvement.
That leaves France, Germany and Ireland somewhere in the mid-range based on results to date.
Amusingly, it would suit everyone if the Spanish were to finish in last place, since they will get to compete in the final anyway as the hosts, if the don’t make it through the qualifying process.
After the Swedish Nations Cup, Ireland will compete at Hickstead before the final round in Dublin in four weeks’ time.
Greg Broderick and Chinook 11 won the Cork-staged latest round of the TRM/Horseware New Heights Champions series at the weekend with the fastest of four double-clears, half a second ahead of Clem McMahon and CMS Hilton Paparazzi, with Capt.
Geoff Curran and Ringwood Glen in third place.
The 20 Irish qualifiers for the Connolly’s Red Mills International for 7 and 8 year-old horses at Dublin Horse Show were confirmed yesterday.
Greg Broderick, Philip McGuane, Clem McMahon, Darragh Ryan, and Peter Smyth have all qualified two horses, with one place each for Stacy Babes, Paul Carberry, Gerard Clarke, Francis Connors, Michael Duffy, Seamus Hayes, Richard Kerins, Eddie Moloney, and Jenny Rankin.
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