Splaine to continue as Ireland manager

Robert Splaine will continue as manager of the Ireland show jumping team, following a review of his performance over the past two years.

The review was conducted by Horse Sport Ireland’s (HSI) show jumping high-performance committee of HSI chairman Pat Wall, HSI chief executive Damian McDonald, ShowjumpingIreland chairman Tony Hurley and Paul McDermott, the Irish Sports Council’s director of High Performance.

Splaine is midway through his second four-year term as manager and, under his contract, his performance was subject to examination.

While he failed in his main objective of qualifying a team for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics at September’s World Equestrian Games, Wall said the HP committee felt it would be counterproductive to change manager at this stage.

“We didn’t reach our milestones at WEG, in that we didn’t win a medal or achieve Olympic qualification. On the other hand, you couldn’t say the performance in WEG wasn’t good, we had three riders in the top 12. We were unlucky in that one fence less would have made a huge difference, as it would have got us to Rio and Bertram Allen into the top four,” said Wall.

“We went through everything that went on and, basically, we felt if we had the horses we could have done better. Nobody would argue we don’t have some of the best riders in the world, but horsepower continues to be our weakness.”

With all the focus on achieving Olympic qualification, Ireland was also extremely lucky to maintain its top league nations cup status.

However, nobody would question Splaine’s commitment to the job and Wall said he was confident that, under the Corkman’s leadership, Ireland would again prove its ability to hold its own at the top and also book a place at Rio when the second chance comes around at next year’s European Championships.

“There is no question about it, but Robert is the man to lead the team. It is a challenging, complex job, particularly in terms of foreign owners providing us with their horses and Robert has built up relationships in that regard,” said Wall.

“Fundamentally, we felt that breaking up the team would have no value at this stage. Robert will be a long time in the position by the time Rio comes around, but you wouldn’t want to change mid-stream.

“If we do get to Rio and we have luck on our side, we could lift another medal.“We remain optimistic, as do the riders. Morale is high and we think the trajectory is looking good.”

Splaine said: “I’m delighted to be continuing for another period. All the riders did a fantastic job this year. We have an ever-expanding pool and the future could be very exciting.”

- To expect Bertram Allen to finish top three in his World Cup debut in Italy a fortnight ago would have been optimistic.

To entertain the notion he could win would have demonstrated a certain naivety, to say the least, about the difficulties of winning a World Cup class, notwithstanding his success to date.

Yet, the Wexford 19-year-old again made a habit of defying logic.

So, would it be overly optimistic again to expect another big result in the World Cup at Stuttgart on Sunday.

Yesterday, though, it was Shane Breen who took first blood for Ireland at the German fixture, winning a speed class with Calido Boy. The Tipperary rider is aiming to improve on his four faults in the World Cup class at Helsinki, Finland, last month.

Cameron Hanley had a fence down early on in last Saturday’s Global Champions Tour final with Antello, which would have been a good display, but he crashed out of contention when also knocking the last. He will be looking to make amends this weekend.

- Edward Butler provided the only double clear to win the inaugural Emerald International Irish Masters in Co Kildare last Sunday.

The Meath rider and Angela Taggart’s Caugherty took the top prize in the €15,000 class ahead of Rebecca McGoldrick, riding Cubra Libra, the Canadian providing the faster of only two four-fault round.

- Voting for the SJI show of the year closes on Dec 5.

The following are the nominees:

Aglish Charity Gymkhana; Ballyfoyle Gymkhana; Cork Summer Show; Dualla Show; Dungarvan Agricultural Show; Northern Indoor Championship, Eglinton’ Owners, Pony and Young Rider Charity Show, Millstreet; Pony & Young Rider Championships, Ennis.

Email your choice to sjishowoftheyear@gmail.com.


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