Walsh warns against a repeat of past controversies

Horse Sport Ireland chairman Joe Walsh has warned against a repeat of the controversies that “tarnished” Irish show jumping in the last two Olympics.

With the International Equestrian Federation yesterday confirming that Ireland will have at least five riders in the London Games — three in eventing and two in show jumping — Walsh said it was crucial those honoured by selection did their country proud.

“With the Olympics on our doorstep, it is vital that Irish equestrian sport is well represented at the Games, but it is even more important that we bring credit to the country while we are there. We cannot have a repeat of the occurrences in show jumping at the last two Olympics when the reputation of our country was tarnished,” he said.

“We are working very closely with the OCI [Olympic Council of Ireland] to ensure that every possible practical measure is taken to avoid any issues in London,” he said.

He thanked the riders, horse owners, managers and coaches, but reserved specific gratitude “for the Irish Sports Council, who continued to back our sport despite disappointments along the way”.

The show jumping places were secured by Denis Lynch and Billy Twomey through their consistency over the past 14 months.

Tipperary rider Lynch was involved in one of the two Olympic incidents referred to by Walsh, when he was disqualified from the 2008 Games. While he won one of the places for Ireland in this year’s Games, he is not the automatic choice for London, as it is manager Robert Splaine who must, by July 9, select the riders with the best chance of glory.

The other controversy referred to by Walsh was the 2004 Athens Olympics involving Cian O’Connor, who has since proved a stalwart of the Irish set-up, was last night on the team in the US nations cup, and will be hoping to be among 200 equestrian competitors from 41 nations in London.

In eventing, Ireland’s minimum of three places were secured by Camilla Speirs, Mark Kyle and Michael Ryan. This constitutes a team, but manager Ginny Elliot hopes withdrawals by other countries will see her hand strengthened, as Ireland hold first and third on the waiting list.


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