Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Reaching for the stars

Millstreet Arena manager Thomas Duggan has big plans for the Co Cork venue

Action packed: Thomas Ryan won the 2014 Millstreet International Grand Prix
Action packed: Thomas Ryan won the 2014 Millstreet International Grand Prix

Siobhán English

"The potential for Ireland to one day run a four-star event is not out of bounds," commented Thomas Duggan of Green Glens Arena as he prepares to host the venue's inaugural CIC international event next month.

As the site is fine-tuned ahead of what will be a busy time from August 28 to 30 at Green Glens and the adjacent Drishane Castle, Mr Duggan is already looking ahead to bigger projects and says that, with careful planning, they could have a venue capable of running a four-star in years to come.

"This has always been our goal, to take little steps at a time and build up the venue for major eventing competitions," he added.

"We are delighted to be running our first CIC in a few weeks' time and already a letter of interest to run a CCI in 2016 has been submitted to Horse Sport Ireland. There's also rumours of the FEI possibly introducing CIC four star at some stage, but we have little knowledge of this as yet. It could be an option sometime too if it happened."

"We've held show jumping events here for years, but even before we were allocated the European Pony Eventing Championships in 2014 we had started on the cross-country course.

"Drishane Castle is a unique venue and we are merely polishing an old diamond by opening it up for such events. Our course designer Mike Etherington-Smith has done a wonderful job on it."

Ireland has always been renowned for producing top-class event horses, and Mr Duggan believes that the addition of this new CIC to the eventing calendar next month can only be good for business.

"The entries are just starting to come in and already we have interest from riders from the UK and the US. An added incentive is that we have offered free entry to riders who win at the British events of Barbury, Hopetoun and Burgham.

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"The last named takes place this coming weekend. It's only our first year, but we are definitely encouraged by the positive response so far."

Classes include a CIC***, CIC**, CIC** for seven-year-olds, CIC*, CIC* for six-year-olds and a CNCP** for ponies. There will also be an Eventing Young Irelander similar to that run for young show jumpers and also a showcase for four and five-year-old young event horses.

As the legendary Noel C Duggan approaches his 83rd birthday, his son Thomas now finds himself in a much more active role in the running of the complex. And, with each passing year the programme of events continues to expand, with 2016 set to be the busiest yet.

"We are going to have a few hectic months next summer but I feel we are ready for it. First we will have the World Mounted Games Championships from July 11-16. I understand this is the first time they will be held in Ireland.

"Then we have the European Show Jumping Show Jumping Championships for Juniors, Young Riders and Children on Horses from July 26-31. After that we will be preparing for the Millstreet International Show. Due to the Olympic Games the RDS has had to push their dates for the Dublin Horse Show forward by a few weeks (July 20-24) but we are still running as usual in mid-August.

"That is always a big week here for us, and then immediately after we will be preparing for our international three-day event."

The immense success of the 2014 European Pony Championships at Millstreet naturally encouraged the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) to also consider the venue for events in 2017. Mr Duggan is thrilled that they have also been awarded the FEI European Eventing Championships for Young Riders and Juniors.

"I think it's been about 10 years since they were last in Ireland, and it could be 25 years since the European Show Jumping Championships for Juniors, Young Riders and Children on Horses were here, so it's great to be able to bring both of them back."


Hosting such major events brings with it immense expense, but the Duggans can pride themselves at being largely self-sufficient.

"Prize money for the upcoming show is in the region of €190,000 and we fund most of it ourselves. We have a few sponsors, but as there are so many classes it would be impossible to have all of them covered.

"We are fortunate to have some sponsors for the eventing later in the month, including Eventing Ireland and Ballymaloe, but again we are funding the majority ourselves."

As Ireland's only three-star show jumping event, next month's Millstreet International Horse Show from August 11-16 is set to welcome a record entry of riders from Ireland and overseas.

"I don't think I've ever seen such large entries and the 1,200 stables are already booked out," Mr Duggan commented.

Highlights of the week will be the Millstreet Masters worth €25,500 and the Millstreet Grand Prix on the final night. This was won in 2014 by Swiss-based Irishman Thomas Ryan riding the 11-year-old stallion Quite Zero.

"The Grand Prix will again carry a prize-fund of €50,000 and we are looking forward to a strong competition," Mr Duggan concluded.

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