Saturday 25 October 2014

Bad day for the Irish - unless of course you're a Springsteen fan

Published 09/08/2014 | 02:30

Ireland's Bertram Allen, competing on Molly Malone V, on his second run during the Aga Khan Nations Cup. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Sisters, Alexandra (9) and Isobel (5) Hourigan from Tipperary, make their way to the stables in the rain at the Dublin Horse Show in the RDS, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Team USA Katherine Dinan, Jessica Springsteen, Charlie Jayne, Elizabeth "Beezie" Madden and Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland celebrate after they won the Aga Khan Nations Cup. Photo: Frank McGrath

Bruce Springsteen quietly followed his wife Patti Scialfa in through the main entrance, passing by the bins to take his place in the queue and showed his ticket to the security guard just like everybody else.

This was a whole new departure for one of the world's top rock megastars.

But Springsteen had clearly no problem with being an ordinary punter - albeit one with a couple of minders in tow. In fact, he seemed to positively relish it.

Stratospheric career on hold, now he was all proud daddy, looking forward to his baby showing the world that there was a new 'Boss' in town.

His confidence was not misplaced. With poise and elegance, Jessica Springsteen brought on her 'wrecking ball' and flawlessly cleared every jump in her first round before 17,000 spectators. Up in the stands, Patti went wild, clapping furiously for her daughter. Bruce sat back and looked quietly delighted.

But when Jessica repeated her dazzling performance in the second round, Bruce was openly bursting with pride.

Team USA had scooped the Aga Khan cup. And with our own hopes for victory dashed - Ireland only managing an equal sixth finish, which could mean that we will not qualify for the October Furusiyya Series Final in Barcelona - the home crowd seamlessly transferred their affections.

It wasn't such a difficult thing really. With so many Springsteen fans amongst the spectators, everyone had sort of sneakingly hoped they might win anyway. The RDS was on fire - Springsteen fever provided an indisputable additional spark.

Abandoning their elevated seats, the parents took their chances amongst the hoi polloi in order to get closer to the arena as Jessica joined the rest of Team USA for the presentation of the Aga 
Khan cup by President Michael D Higgins.

Shameless selfies with Bruce were being taken left, right and centre - but the couple couldn't care less and Patti hung over the railings, holding Jessica's victory bouquet as they drank in the vista of their daughter, upright and dapper in her saddle. She flashed them a beaming smile as she cantered by.

Then Bruce and Patti finally tore themselves away and were ushered through the crowd to a waiting car out back. They are planning on holidaying in Ireland for "a few more days".

At the press conference later, Jessica was modest. Her horse was "incredible" and had jumped "unbelievably", she said, adding: "So I couldn't have hoped for anymore."

Asked about her parents' presence, she said she was really happy that they could come to watch. "They've come to a lot of the shows this summer so I'm happy to have them here," she said.

It was a sunny ending on what had started out as a pretty bleak day, as horses and riders struggled through torrents of rain, rivulets of water running down their necks.

Not that the retailers weren't delighted. Driven indoors, visitors perused stalls of riding paraphernalia, jams, antiques and all kinds of everything. On a wander, Paudie Bourke, Aidan Gillespie and Enda McGrath from the Army Pipe Band were grilled by a group of children who wanted to know everything about their elaborate costume.

At the legendary fourth-generation Berney Bros Saddlery of Kilcullen, Co Kildare, Thomas Berney revealed that a new saddle they had invented was doing a roaring trade. Called the Monoflap, the saddle is just over four kilos, is handcrafted with a memory foam seat, wool flock panels for the horse's comfort and Berney's have done a deal with Team Ireland to come on board and use it.

"We wanted all the top Irish riders to use Irish saddles," explained Thomas. "And the only way to do that is to make the best Irish saddle."

And though at €1,550 a pop it is not cheap, he revealed that it was "about €1,000 less than what it should cost" when compared with similar quality international saddles.

Thomas revealed that they were the first retailers to open at the RDS Horse Show in 1966. "It was the summer of Woodstock and my father Tom and uncle Jim were here doing this," said Thomas.

Irish Independent

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