The Irish Show Jumping team scored an impressive runner-up finish on Sunday in the Longines FEI Nations Cup at Samorin in Slovakia, the first opportunity to score points in Europe Division 1.
Ireland was in joint third place at the halfway stage on five faults along with Brazil. The highlight for Ireland in the opening round was a foot-perfect clear round from Limerick’s Paul O’Shea with Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu.
Co Louth’s Mark McAuley also kept all the poles standing with Utchan De Belheme, but finishing with a time fault, while Cork’s Shane Sweetnam and Chaqui Z lowered a single fence.
Tipperary’s Shane Breen and Ipswich Van De Wolfsakker were the discard score first time out, but they looked to be heading for a clear on their second attempt before the very last fence fell to leave them with 4 faults.
McAuley and Utchan De Belheme returned with 8 faults, before O’Shea and the 11-year-old Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu completed a brilliant double clear – one of just four in the competition.
Sweetnam and Chaqui Z then repeated their 4 faults score from the first round when last to go, to leave Ireland on a two round total of 13 faults and in second place at the finish.
Switzerland claimed the winner’s trophy with 9 faults while Belgium finished in third place with 16 faults, just behind Ireland. Brazil was fourth, followed by Italy and Sweden in joint fifth, while Germany had to settle for seventh place with Spain in eighth.
Brazilian-born Irish team manager Rodrigo Pessoa was pleased with his team’s opening Nations Cup in Europe this season:
“It was a very good result to start the year. It is still only the end of April and for a lot of the horses it was their first time this season jumping on grass. We have to salute Paul O’Shea for his double clear round with Machu Picchu. The course wasn’t easy and the faults were spread out all over the course. Overall it’s a very positive start for us and our riders also had a very good show here in Samorin in the individual classes.”
Sunday’s performance gives Ireland 90 points on the league table to take to their next points-scoring Nations Cup round at La Baule, France on 20th May.