Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 17 November 2017

Team Ireland youngsters riding a wave of success

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Team Ireland is currently riding a wave of success with its younger generation of eventing competitors, with the Irish Junior (under-18) eventing team taking home team gold at the European Championships at Haras de Jardy in France and the Young Rider team securing team bronze at the same venue.

The GAIN Horse Feeds Junior team (above left) were lying in bronze medal position after the dressage, but clear rounds around a tough cross-country track from Cathal Daniels on Rioghan Rua, Elizabeth Hayden with Miracle and Harold Megahey on Chuckleberry pulled them up to silver medal position the night before the final show jumping phase.

However, several appeal hearings from a number of different nations overnight resulted in the Irish team being pushed up into gold medal position before the show jumping took place.

A clear round from Elizabeth Hayden and her Irish Sport Horse, Miracle, who were lying third individually overnight, secured her the individual silver medal for Ireland.

Ireland's fourth team rider, Josh Pim, on The Irish Minstrel had a fall on the cross-country course but horse and rider were uninjured.

Irish individual rider Susie Berry with Bolero de Ste Hermelle put in a clear cross-country round and held eighth place in the individual competition, while Ireland's other individual Maria Byrne did not show jump after her horse picked up a minor injury.

Junior team manager Debbie Byrne said she was thrilled with the result.

"I felt we could achieve a medal place," she told the Farming Independent. "Deep down I hoped it could be a gold medal."

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A PE teacher by profession, Ms Byrne maintained that her young team had enough faith in their own ability to pull out a gold medal performance when the pressure was on.

"Our riders were pure class – they just went in and did a super job," she said.

Ms Byrne manages the Irish Junior team with the help of dressage coach Terry Boon, show jumping coach Ian Fearon and team vet Will Lalor.

Later in the same day, the Irish Gain Young Rider (under-21) team (above right) clinched bronze, to the delight of team manager Sally Corscadden.

The trio of Michelle Kenny and Fernhill M2S, Melanie Young and Riverstown Express and David Hannigan on Red Baron were left without a discard score following an unfortunate elimination in the cross-country for team debutante Caroline Marwood and Jazzin Along.

"The ground conditions were appalling," said Sally. "Caroline was prevented from starting three times because of horse falls."

Horse falls also affected Michelle Kenny, who was held on the course for 20 minutes and did well to finish clear with only 10 time faults.

The team managed to hold on to third place during a difficult show jumping phase that featured big fences and lots of related distances on seven and eight strides. The trio finished on a tally of 230.0, behind France (gold) and Britain (silver).

"I was thrilled with my riders, they really rose to the occasion," said Ms Corscadden, who manages the team with help from dressage coach Heike Holstein, show jumping coach Ian Fearon and team vet Will Lalor.

With two European medals in the bag for the under-21 riders, it was then the turn of Ireland's rising star in the senior eventing ranks, Aoife Clark, to fly the flag for Ireland by winning the three-star event at Blenheim, England.

Riding the Irish Sport Horse Fenya's Elegance (by Ricardo Z out of a Fenya by Good Thyne), the 31-year-old Dubliner produced a dazzling display in the cross-country to edge into the lead. But France's former world champion Jean Teulere and American Clark Montgomery were just 1.5 penalty points behind her. As a result she needed a clear round inside the time to retain her lead.

The win at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials is her first three-star event win and one of Ireland's first victories in many years at this level of three-day eventing.

Ms Clark has been in the spotlight in recent years, having been best of the Irish at Badminton in May and finishing seventh at the London Olympics last year.

Irish Independent