Irish take third in Nations Cup finale as France claim crown
Ireland finished third in a hard-fought Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping final at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, as France claimed the inaugural title.
From a starting field of 18 nations in Friday's first round, Ireland qualified for the decider which was hailed as championship-level competition at its best.
Cameron Hanley opened with five faults from Antello Z, while Denis Lynch and All Star dropped just the very last fence. Shane Breen's Balloon kicked out the first fence, but then cleared all the rest of the track to also finish with four faults.
Billy Twomey and Tinka's Serenade, who rode to the rescue on Friday to clinch the qualifying spot, were under pressure again as it seemed possible that Ireland might go into a jump-off with the French.
But the Irish pair fell victim to the trap set by course designer Santiago Varela on the line from the open water to the following vertical for four faults. A finishing score of 12 faults left the Irish on level-pegging with the Dutch, but the the latter had to settle for fourth with the Irish combined rounds faster.
The winning French finished on eight faults, with Brazil second. The Furusiyya format came in for huge praise from the riders, who see it as the formula for the future with less pressure on the horses. It also offered a huge prize-fund with €1.5m on offer in the finale of which the Irish claimed €200,000.