The Irish Showjumping team finished in third place after an exciting Longines FEI Nations Cup World Final at Polo Club de Barcelona on Sunday.
The competition saw the lead change several times over the closing stages, with Belgium eventually being crowned champions, while runners-up France and third-placed Ireland could only be separated by time.
As the final progressed it became clear that the demanding course would take serious jumping, with clear rounds at a premium. Only four of the 32 starters managed to jump clear at the finish.
Rodrigo Pessoa’s team included three horses making their first appearance in a Nations Cup, while 21-year-old Michael G Duffy, who won the Queen’s Cup at the venue the previous day, was jumping in his first ever five-star Nations Cup for Ireland.
Billy Twomey and Kimba Flamenco were first to go for Ireland, and finished with just one fence down. Anthony Condon also came home with just four faults with SFS Aristio and Ireland were in a share of the lead at the halfway stage on 4 faults.
Michael G Duffy looked to be heading for a clear round when third to go with The Irish Sport Horse Lapuccino 2, only for the last line to prove costly, knocking two late poles for eight faults.
Ireland’s last rider, Darragh Kenny, riding Balou Du Reventon, were also clear coming to the last line but finished with 8 faults.
Italy could win with a final clear from last to go Lorenzo de Luca, but two fences down dropped the Italians down the standings and handed victory to Belgium. France finished second with Ireland third, Italy fourth, Netherlands fifth, ahead of Sweden, Austria and Switzerland.
Irish team manager Rodrigo Pessoa said of his side’s podium finish:
“We are pretty pleased, we came close to doing something really special. Clear rounds were hard to come by and we came close to forcing a jump-off but in the end we have to be satisfied with finish third. Many times this year we have come close without finishing the job. We have to now reflect those fences we have down which are the ones which prove costly.”