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Thursday 8 December 2016

Crowds saddle up for mane event at the RDS

But questions asked as Ireland fails to qualify for Rio

Published 21/07/2016 | 02:30

James Derwin (7) from Athlone takes a break with Yorkie, a 128cm Jumping Pony at the Dublin Horse Show in the RDS Photo: Gerry Mooney
James Derwin (7) from Athlone takes a break with Yorkie, a 128cm Jumping Pony at the Dublin Horse Show in the RDS Photo: Gerry Mooney

Of course, there were jitters that the Dublin Horse Show might lose out by being pushed back two weeks to accommodate the Olympics.

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But in the end, organisers were determined to see it as a good omen.

Victoria O Connor from Malahide with horse Madame Stella Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Victoria O Connor from Malahide with horse Madame Stella Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

The last time this happened was in 1992 for Barcelona - and Ireland went on to win the Aga Khan, declared CEO of the RDS, Michael Duffy, certain the stars are aligned once again.

With box-office names like Jessica Springsteen and Georgina Bloomberg in the ring, the opening day of the 143rd Dublin Horse Show began with a flourish.

And though attendance figures were not yet available, on the face of it, the change in dates did not seem to make a jot of difference as everyone milled around enjoying the sunshine.

In fact, some punters positively preferred it.

Joanna Fitzpatrick Photo: Gerry Mooney
Joanna Fitzpatrick Photo: Gerry Mooney

"It's not so close to the bank holiday now so suits far better," declared Rosemarie Gallagher from Donnybrook in Dublin, struggling about on a zimmer frame due to a running injury but determined not to let it hold her back.

Dressed to Ladies' Day standard in a bright yellow dress and a Carol Kennelly hat with a jaunty little yellow bird perched on top, Rosemarie said she enjoys the style but prefers to give today's competition a miss.

"There's enough in it on Ladies' Day," she said.

It was a day to remember for new Dublin Lord Mayor Brendan Carr, as he opened the Horse Show as one of his very first official engagements.

He was brought to the horse show as a child, which made it all the more special as he arrived at the RDS in the sumptuous Lord Mayor's coach with his wife Suzanne and son Jason.

"This is a day I'll remember for a very long time," he said.

But with the Olympics on the horizon, it was inevitable that the main focus was on the riders.

Topping the leader board in the Speed Stakes competition, champion showjumper Cian O'Connor said he could not see Ireland being beaten in the Aga Khan on Friday.

But in the same breath he hinted strongly at trouble in the camp over Ireland's failure to qualify for Rio, pointing the finger at management.

"The bottom line is we weren't good enough to qualify and we haven't asked the difficult questions," he said.

He added that journalists had also failed to ask the proper questions about "what was going on."

Plans Asked his own opinion of why Ireland had not qualified, he claimed it was about saving horses for big events and also about being able to "manage, structure, and for the lads who've planned their campaign to work with the management and the management to lead and give direction."

"If you have four people doing their own thing and they come together to win the odd time, it's only going to happen by chance and not by design," he insisted.

"I make decisions and make plans, some work and some don't work."

"You can't hope for it to happen, you've to make it happen," said O'Connor.

Meanwhile, Georgina Bloomberg, daughter of the three-time New York mayor, said she was delighted to be back in Dublin.

"It's a great crowd and they're very knowledgeable about the sport," she said.

Irish Independent

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