He has good reason, though, to judge by the figures he rattled off.
“Personally, I foresee growth continuing, by way of a further increase in entries, membership, and registrations.
“Last year’s entries broke through the 9,400 mark, which was a record. Membership was up by 6% and registrations were up by 70 horses. The upturn in the economy, the improvement of the tracks and standards overall by Eventing Ireland and the recognition that the sport has a lot to offer has led to greater popularity,” said O’Meara, a solicitor from Mallow, Co Cork, who served on the EI board from 2010-2012.
He also noted the benefits of “a very good IT system”.
“David Stone and Karen Grey were instrumental in procuring and installing this. This allows ease of entries, registrations, and accounts. It also allows the provision of real-time results, which is as good as you will get anywhere. Georgia Stubbington deserves great credit for this and for all her hard work as chairperson for the past three years.”
Of course, the Olympics is bound to be a milestone this year, with Ireland having qualified a team, but O’Meara believes there is plenty of reason to be optimistic.
“We are all very excited. I believe we have the strongest group of riders and horses ever available for selection. All the riders are training very hard and working very well together,” he said, pointing out that rider “Joseph Murphy commented at the recent AGM that there is tremendous cohesion and a great spirit in the camp”.
It emerged at the recent Eventing Ireland AGM that Horse Sport Ireland had withdrawn its provision of book-keeping services. O’Meara said EI was in the process of outsourcing this and would do its utmost to limit the cost to the organisation.
“We’re very grateful to HSI for the provision of these services to us in the past and we are currently outsourcing the job, which will be filled very shortly by an accountancy firm.
“I presume it is a cost-cutting exercise [for HSI]. It will involve a cost to Eventing Ireland, but we will be endeavouring to keep it to a minimum.”
O’Meara also said he intended to familiarise himself over the next few months with the circumstances of the Deloitte audit of Horse Sport Ireland, which commenced a year ago.
The results of the audit were expected as far back as last summer, having been initiated a year ago by the Irish Sports Council on foot of correspondence to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee.
“I’m not privy to the nature and the current circumstances surrounding the audit, so am not in a position to comment on this matter at this time,” said O’Meara.
“However, I will in the course of the next two-to-three months be making the appropriate enquiries.”
HSI said of its decision to end the provision of book-keeping services for EI: Horse Sport Ireland has been providing this service for free for a number of years.
Eventing Ireland is now in a far stronger financial position and has accumulated significant reserves. With the establishment of the new International marketing department and other additional responsibilities, the workload in the HSI finance department has increased and we are no longer in a position to provide the service.”
As for the Deloitte audit, HSI said: “The board have been kept up to date on the progress of the audit. We would point out that Sport Ireland who conducted the audit, have indicated that there are no major issues with the audit.
“Horse Sport Ireland was allocated its funding for 2016 at the same time as all other NGBs. Both the core and high performance amounts are up slightly on last year and are in line with other NGB’s.”
Commenting on a replacement for Mark Bolger following his decision to step down as director general of the Irish Horse Board, HSI said: The board of directors of the Irish Horse Board will be updated on the appointment at their next meeting, which is expected to take place in March. Mark Bolger continues to act in the role until then.”
HSI also confirmed that the successful tenderer to cover media affairs for HSI is Equestrian PR Services, operated by Brian Hennessy. HSI said he “will primarily be providing weekend cover of results”, but that Elaine Hatton will remain the main press office contact along with Sophie Dalton.
The last topic provides a nice segue to the next story. A new equestrian Facebook page has been launched by former HSI press officer Colin McClelland.
Already, after just one week, We Live Horse is heading towards 2,000 likes, ie followers. After three days, it had 1,000 likes.
It’s not surprising, considering McClelland’s track record with HSI, having built up its Facebook following to over 64,000, which is a phenomenal figure.
McClelland pointed out that: “One picture of Denis Lynch competing in Stuttgart reached over half a million views in 12 hours. Obviously, we would be aiming to achieve similar penetration in due course with We Live Horse.”
If it’s one thing Cian O’Connor’s mount Good Luck has in spade, it’s scope. In fact, it’s breath-taking. See it for yourself on the facebook page of US equestrian site noellefloyd.com in a promotion for this weekend’s action at the Live Oak International in Florida, which will feature O’Connor in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier.
O’Connor is listed to ride Callisto, Crespo PKZ, and Saphir at Live Oak, and is expected to aim Good Luck at tomorrow night’s $380,000 Suncast Grand Prix down the road at the Winter Equestrian Festival.