“All in all everyone is happy and it’s onwards and upwards from here,” said Irish rider Shane Breen after Sunday’s nations cup league opener in Samorin, Slovakia.
It was a relatively happy ending all right with Ireland taking the runner-up position, but just hours earlier the Tipperary rider might not have been expecting to sound such a positive note after he had opened Ireland’s challenge with a twelve-fault showing on Ipswich van de Wolfsakker.
Thankfully his team-mates ensured it was the discard score. Mark McAuley and Utchan de Belheme incurred just a time fault, while Paul O’Shea and Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu were immaculate before Shane Sweetnam and Chaqui Z had one fence down.
Ireland went to the break sharing third place on a total of five faults, with Switzerland leading on a zero score.
Breen fared much better in the second round and looked all set for a clear until the final fence brought four faults.
McAuley’s second effort then produced eight faults and Ireland’s hopes looked to be fading, but once again O’Shea came home intact and with everyone but the Swiss losing ground, Ireland had a chance to reel in the leaders until a plank on the floor from Sweetnam meant a second place finish.
O’Shea’s double-clear with Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu came on his first appearance in a qualifier under Irish manager Rodrigo Pessoa. It followed a double-clear for the pairing in Florida two months ago in a pre-season nations cup under assistant manager Michael Blake.
The Irish collected 90 league points for their efforts in Samorin, which is a nice haul at this stage of the season.
Unlike the previous few years when countries were allowed to disregard some of their worst showings in league outings, this time around finishing positions at all five fixtures count. That leaves Germany and Spain, who finished seventh and eight respectively, with plenty of ground to make up.
“Overall it’s a very positive start for us,” said Pessoa whose next outing in charge will be the French Nations Cup at La Baule on May 19.
Team action of a different kind takes place this weekend in Madrid which hosts the fourth round of the Global Champions League. Cian O’Connor looks set to make his first appearance for the New York Empire team, while Denis Lynch and Cameron Hanley may partner for Miami Celtics. Also at the fixture will be Darragh Kenny, who rides for Paris Panthers, and Bertram Allen, whose Valkenswaard United team are once again at the business end of the 19-team league.
Irish-bred horses may be well down the pecking order in show-jumping these days their prowess at eventing was in evidence again at the Land Rover Kentucky meeting at the weekend. Cooley Master Class carried Oliver Townend to victory in the event and the British rider also took seventh on another Irish horse, MHS King Joules. Two other Irish-breds finished in the top ten, American riders Sharon White taking eighth with Cooley On Show and Buck Davidson placing 10th with Copper Beach.
Ireland’s only representative in the event was US-based Tim Bourke who finished 19th on Irish-bred Luckaun Quality.
The big story was Townend denying Olympic champion Michael Jung a four-timer at this event, the German ace having to settle for second this time on fischerRocana FST after four faults in show jumping.
In Ireland at the weekend Greg Broderick claimed the second round of the TRM/Horse Sport Ireland New Heights Champions series at a sunny Portmore, following up last week’s success in the opening round at The Meadows. The pairing produced the only double-clear of the contest and Broderick feels the horse he campaigned lightly on the Sunshine Tour in Spain earlier in the year has progressed very well. “He’s in top form now,” he said. “Last week in The Meadows he jumped his first 1.50m and we won. I couldn’t be happier with him. He’s just getting better and better.”
Nicholas Butler posted a fast jump-off clear on Vimminka but four faults carried from the first round meant he had to settle for second.
The national grand prix was claimed by Jonathan Smith on Mulvin Lui, with Liam O’Meara second on Russel Style.
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