Cian O’Connor: Irish can win in Rotterdam

Show jumping team affairs get serious for Ireland from this weekend.

Cian O’Connor: Irish can win in Rotterdam

There are no more ‘friendlies’ on the horizon for manager Rodrigo Pessoa, as Friday’s Dutch Nations Cup in Rotterdam looms, to be followed by three more qualifiers, the last of which will be at Dublin Horse Show in August.

By then, Ireland will have completed their six competitive Europe Division 1 league outings. Of the two they have contested so far, the Irish have had a third-place finish in the French Nations Cup at La Baule and a joint-third placing at the Italian equivalent in Rome. Pretty good going considering that the Irish manager, in his first season at the helm, has not yet had all his aces in place.

One who was missing was Cian O’Connor, out of action through injury for six weeks from April, but now back almost better than ever, having had three fruitful weekends in succession, which included a five-star Grand Prix victory at Sopot in Poland with Good Luck, and a third-place finish in another at Treffen, Austria this past weekend with Skyhorse.

The London 2012 bronze-medalist is looking forward to a return to team affairs, and feels confident about the Rotterdam contest. “It’s always special to jump on the Irish team, and I’m especially looking forward to it as I feel we have a good chance of winning,” he told the Irish Examiner. “The team has performed above expectations so far,” he says of the two qualifiers contested while he was out of action.

O’Connor will have his top horse Good Luck at the Dutch venue, having rested him from the Grand Prix win in Poland, which came a week after a fourth place finish for the pairing in the four-star Grand Prix at Wiesbaden, Germany on his first weekend back from injury. “I hope he can do the business on Friday for the team,” O’Connor said.

Pessoa will name his final four tomorrow from the squad of five which also includes Bertram Allen (Hector van d’Abdijhoeve), Shane Breen (Golden Hawk), Darragh Kenny (Charly Chaplin S) and Mark McAuley (Utchan De Belheme). Breen and Golden Hawk have been the top performers for Pessoa to date, jumping a double-clear at La Baule and a clear and four in Rome.

It’s not a straightforward task to pinpoint exactly where Ireland stand at present, as some teams have completed four qualifiers, whereas others, including Ireland, have had only two. Factor in that only the best four results count from each country’s six qualifiers, and perhaps the best that can be done at this point is to look at the results average. That shows Italy on top averaging 90 points, followed by Switzerland (80), Ireland (77.5), Germany (76.67), France (75.63), Netherlands (67.5), Sweden (64.38) and Spain (58.33).

Billy Twomey, Trevor Breen, Dermott Lennon, and Richard Howley are among the Irish due to take part at Hickstead’s four-star show which includes the famous Derby event for the Boomerang Trophy, named after Eddie Macken’s outstanding horse with whom he won the event four years running from 1976 to 1979. Trevor Breen won this event in 2014 and 2015, and his mount on his first win, the Irish-bred Adventure De Kannan is to be retired at the meeting in a special ceremony ahead of the main event on Sunday. The remarkable horse had surgery to remove an eye in 2013, which led to him being nicknamed ‘One-Eyed Wonder’.

Other international action this week includes the latest Global Champions Tour/League round in Monaco at which Denis Lynch will compete individually and for the Miami Glory team.

Gemma Phelan and Loughnavatta Indigo claimed last weekend’s New Heights Champions round at Galway County Show, at which Tholm Keane won the National Grand Prix contest on BMH BIg Time. Keane moved on to Cork on Sunday where he won the fifth event of the Munster Grand Prix series, this time on Future Storm. The next rounds of both the National and the Munster Grand Prix leagues are being hosted by Charleville Agricultural Show this weekend.

Horse Sport Ireland will today announce a continuation of Gain Equine Nutrition’s sponsorship of the Irish underage teams in show jumping, eventing, and dressage, which includes a travel bursary for squads competing in the European Championships.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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