Runner-up Spot in Poland puts Ireland fourth on Longines FEI Nations Cup table

The Rodrigo Pessoa-managed Irish Show Jumping team finished in the runner-up position in Sunday five-star Longines FEI Nations Cup at Sopot in Poland, losing out to Belgium in the jump-off to decide the winners.

This was Ireland’s second of four opportunities to score league points in Europe’s top division, which this year carries the added importance of an Olympic team qualification spot up for grabs at the Nations Cup World Final in Barcelona this September.

Ireland were drawn first to jump and posted clear rounds from Paul O’Shea with Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu and Shane Sweetnam with Alejandro. Peter Moloney looked set to deliver another clear round with Chianti’s Champion, only for the last fence to fall. Bertram Allen, taking the anchor leg with Harley VD Bisschop had four faults, leaving Ireland on a first round total of four faults, sharing second place with Belgium and France at the halfway stage, with the Dutch, leading on a zero score.

O’Shea completed a brilliant double clear round when first out for the Irish in the second round, and the gap at the top closed when the first Dutch rider picked up four faults. Sweetnam matched O’Shea’s performance as he also jumped double clear, putting the Irish team in a share of the lead when The Netherlands joined a group of four teams on four faults at that stage.

Waterford rider Peter Moloney, making his debut in Europe’s top division of the Nations Cup series, delivered a vital clear round, meaning Ireland would finish with a clear scorecard in the second round, with Bertram Allen not required to jump in the second round. The Dutch and French teams dropped out of the running after their final riders had faults, however Belgium matched Ireland’s score to secure a jump-off to decide the winners.

Limerick-native Paul O’Shea was selected to go against the clock with Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu, but they left the door open when knocking the first fence. O’Shea’s time however was quick, meaning Belgium’s Pieter Devos still had to deliver with his horse Apart. Devos survived a nervous round where he rattled a couple of poles, but he crossed the line clear to take victory for Belgium, with Ireland in second. France finished third ahead of Germany in fourth and Netherlands in fifth. Brazil filled sixth place ahead of the home team from Poland in seventh while Austria finished eighth.

Ireland collected 90 points for their runner-up finish in Sopot and moved up to fourth place on the league table. Ireland’s next opportunity to gain Nations Cup points will come in next month at Hickstead in England where Ireland are the defending champions. The final chance to collect points will come in the Aga Khan at the Dublin Horse Show at the RDS in August.

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