Ireland über alles in Germany

IT was Ireland über alles in Germany last weekend, when our show jumpers notched up a superb Nations Cup double.

The senior riders Billy Twomey (Luidam), Robert Splaine (Coolcorron Cool Diamond), Peter Charles (Pershing) and Kevin Babington (Carling King) won a nail-biting competition in Aachen, being forced to wait until the last fence was jumped until assured victory.

In Freudenberg, pony riders Anthony Condon (Mr Polar Bear) and Mark Flynn (Kilcannon Explosion) produced double clears, with Mark McAuley (Shalom Outlaw) and Nicola Fitzgibon (Miami Bound) on four a piece, to see Ireland finish on a score of zero.

The Aachen victory on Friday was a demonstration of mental fortitude as much as talent, with chef d'equipe Tommy Wade and his team pulling together to overcome the stiffest opposition. Splaine, whose second round clear set the team on the road to victory, said no one could be singled out, pointing to the esprit de corps in the Irish camp as crucial to victory.

"It was a good team performance. Nobody had a bad day. Everybody contributed. There was some strong and often heated discussion as to what should be done, but the advice was right. Everybody was helping everyone else, and the competition was well-analysed, well thought out and well executed," Splaine said

The victory in Aachen could not have been scripted better if it was a Hollywood film.

At the halfway stage Ireland were in third place on seven faults, two behind France. Belgium, who had not overly impressed to date, proved the surprise package by posting three clears for a midway total of zero.

Over a huge track, the Irish opted instead to test the clock, Charles and Babington picking up just one time fault each. Added to Twomey's five faults this left them on a score of seven. Splaine provided the discard of eight with his Glidawn Diamond stallion, blaming bad tactics on his part.

He led the way in round two, however, with a superb clear, which was matched in turn by fellow Corkman Twomey. When Charles four-faulted at the final element of the combination, the last fence on the course, it left Ireland on 11. This could not be improved upon by Babington, who concluded with five faults, hitting the oxer at fence six and adding a time fault.

At this stage the French challenge had evaporated, as Belgium also ran into trouble. With rounds of eight and 13 added to a clear, they needed Ludo Philippaerts to jump clear if they were to deny Ireland. All was going to plan until the bogey last fence, where Parco obliged to see the Belgian pairing finish on five for a team total of 13 and a two-fault winning margin for Ireland.

It was Ireland's third Nations Cup win in a row, following similar results at Hamina, Finland, and St Gallen, Switzerland.

The result leaves Ireland on 30.5 points in the Samsung Super League, half a point behind leaders France. They could do no better than fifth yesterday and will be looking over their shoulders anxiously going into the next round at Hickstead (July 25), with Ireland looking ahead to defending their European title in Germany later this year.

Chef d'equipe of the pony team, Maureen Bagnall, said her charges had "jumped out of their skin", pointing to the input of trainer Ian Fearon and the dedication of the riders.

"I attribute our success to our training regime this year. This is the first time we have had a full-time trainer and it has produced results. The hard work on the children's part cannot be ignored either."

Not surprisingly, the four riders who made up the team were named this week to challenge for European honours at Necarne Castle, Co Fermanagh, at the end of next month. European bronze medallist Anthony Condon, who was forced into second place by Mark McAuley (Shalom Outlaw) in Friday's grand prix qualifier at the German venue, is joined by his sister Claire (Berti Brown) on the team, which is: Anthony Condon (Mr Polo Bear), Claire Condon (Berti Brown), Mark McAuley (Shalom Outlaw), Mark Flynn (Kilcannon Explosion), Nicola Fitzgibbon (Miami Bound).

First reserve is Heather Purcell (Enville Flight) and second reserve is Nicola Wright (Clogherboy Mirah).

Army rider Lieutenant David O'Brien notched up his second grand prix win in a week, at Cavan last Sunday. Following success in Galway, the Athlone man, aboard Carraig Dubh, came home with more than two seconds to spare over Linda Courtney (Cavaleve. The win catapults O'Brien to fourth place in the Kerrygold grand prix rankings.

A sixth place for James Kernan on Out of Touch consolidated his lead in the Kerrygold League. With his score standing at 40 points, he is four clear of Andrew Dunlop. Former league leader Clem McMahon holds onto his third place on 35 points but, after yesterday's win, O'Brien is now just half a point behind him.

Following the Munster Region RDS Qualifiers last Saturday at O'Gorman's Equestrian Centre, riders travel to Wallslough EC in Kilkenny tomorrow for the Equestrian World of Maynooth-sponsored classes for ponies and the Holmestead Saddlery-sponsored young rider competitions. It will be the riders last chance to book their ticket for the Dublin showcase. They will be hoping to join the likes Cahir winners 148cms A: Benedict Kuehnle (Little Nakita), 138cms A: Andrew Latta (Sligo Classic), 128cms A: Jessica (Turbo Boy), 148cms A 5/6/7-year-old: David O'Brien (Kelly's Lady), Young Riders 1.10m: Liz Walsh (Mile Bush), 1.20m Young Riders: Cathal McMunn (Mr Know All) and 1.30m Young Riders: Ivan Dalton (Cottage Fire).

A 1,000 open horse competition should attract a lot of entries at Tallow Gymkhana next Wednesday. The Waterford event will include a Boomerang Qualifier for Millstreet Show and a Gain Qualifier for Waterford Show.

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