Strong recovery secures second in Aga Khan cup
IRELAND finished strongly to take second place in yesterday's Aga Khan Nations Cup at the Dublin Horse Show.
The two final clear rounds by Cian O'Connor and Denis Lynch won great acclaim from the crowd in a packed main arena at the RDS.
However, the Irish team had left too much ground to make up after the first round of jumping to close the gap with the victorious Dutch team.
The Netherlands put in a strong winning performance featuring an impressive tally of five clear rounds.
That not only secured them the Aga Khan trophy presented to them by the President Mary McAleese, but also saved them from relegation in the Meydan FEI Nations' Cup -- the super league of international showjumping.
The Irish team's joint second place with the United States was helped by a clear round for Billy Twomey in the first round, and the Corkman got just four faults in the second round meaning his was the best overall Irish performance of the day.
Ireland's placing meant they finished in fourth place overall out of the 10 teams competing in the Meydan FEI Nations' Cup series, ensuring they will stay in the top ranks of international showjumping next year.
Irish Chef d'Equipe Robert Splaine paid tribute to the team which he said had done a "fantastic job in an incredibly tough year".
"I'm very very proud of the team and overall I am 100pc happy with the effort of all the riders who contributed to our fourth place position in the Meydan series," he said.
Cian O'Connor said he was delighted with the performance of his new horse K Club Lady, which jumped one clear round, and he blamed himself for eight faults in the first round.
"I've only had her four months, and I've never been as thrilled with a horse this early -- she's a real contender and there were one or two things I could have done differently, so I'll learn from this," he said.
Dutch Chef d'Equipe Rob Ehrens praised his riders, owners and the Dutch federation for not putting pressure on them when they were facing possible relegation.
Favourites France finished fourth yesterday, but won the overall Meydan league for the second year in a row.
The course created by the London 2012 Olympic Games course designer Bob Ellis proved challenging for most riders, with Sweden particularly disappointed when a strong challenge, that left them leading after the first round, collapsed in the later stages, resulting in relegation.
Titans Germany, generally considered one of the most solid teams in the competition, were the surprise losers after round one, going out with 28 faults.
Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith, who attended the show yesterday, said it was one of the world's premium equestrian events.