Ireland, who began the Longines FEI Nations Cup Europe Division 1 League table in third position on Friday morning, knew they had an opportunity to possibly top the overall standings with a victory at the RDS. Mexico’s surprise victory, however, left the home side having to settle for joint-second place on the day with Italy and France.
Ireland Team Manager, Rodrigo Pessoa, spoke about contrasting fortunes over the two-round competition:
“We had a really good first round; riders were really impeccable and we put ourselves in the place where we wanted to be, to try to bring it home. Then things happened in the second round, small mistakes, the accident with Mark (where his horse refused twice and was eliminated) and things like that. That’s just horses and showjumping! They rode good, we just had little rails here and there; it was just not enough. We came close. We’ll try again, we’ll keep trying!”
Shane Sweetnam, the pathfinder for Team Ireland with Main Road, had an opening round clear, followed by four faults in the second. The Corkman was pleased with his horse’s performance, stating:
“Main Road jumped fantastic both rounds but I was very happy with him. He hasn’t done too many Nations Cups and he showed the star he can be. I’m sure he’ll get better and better. It was proper jumping. We had momentum in the first round and we lost our momentum in the second round. The Mexicans found our momentum. Honestly, this isn’t the first time I’ve been in this position and that’s the way it went. Things didn’t sort of happen for us and did for them. Hopefully when we get to Tryon (at the World Equestrian Games) things will happen for us.”
Mark McAuley, whose horse Utchan De Belheme jumped an opening round clear, was eliminated in the second round when his 10-year-old gelding refused at both the sixth and ninth:
“I think my horse jumped absolutely fantastic in the first round, I think he gave everything – maybe even a bit too much. I don’t know did he tweek something or something went wrong but he had two very uncharacteristic refusals in the second round which was extremely disappointing, but horses are horses – they’re not machines and unfortunately they can’t tell us when something has gone wrong. We’ll get him checked first thing on Monday morning and hopefully it’s nothing too serious.”
Limerick rider Paul O’Shea had four faults in both rounds with Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu, a horse who produced double clears in Nations Cups in Wellington (Florida), Samorin and Falsterbo. Despite knocking a pole in each round, the North American-based rider was happy with his mount’s performance:
“I was delighted with my horse. He’s been really consistent all year and he jumped really well today. We were a bit unlucky. He rose to the occasion and I’m very happy with him.”
Cameron Hanley, on the Irish anchor leg with Quirex, felt his horse jumped very well in the competition, delivering an opening round clear, and four faults in the final round. When suggested to him that he had an unenviable task of trying to produce a last round clear to force a jump-off, the Mayo rider disagreed:
“Honestly it’s not a horrible job. I was relishing the pressure – that’s what we do this for. I have always dreamt about doing it. I rode pretty good and the horse jumped I think actually better in the second round and a light mistake – it was a pity but he jumped very well. I’m not happy with the result but I’m very happy with the performance from the horse and we all did our bit, and of course we would like to win.”
The Irish team finished in second place overall in the Longines FEI Nations Cup Europe Division 1 League table, behind Belgium, who did not compete in Dublin. Ireland will compete in the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, USA, from September 11-23, and Pessoa’s team also have the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona to look forward in October.