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Thursday 22 August 2019

Ireland pipped as Team GB bags honours at Nations' Cup

UK riders take top spot in event for first time since 2013

Tara Gogarty Forde (3), from Leixlip, Co Kildare, at the RDS. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Tara Gogarty Forde (3), from Leixlip, Co Kildare, at the RDS. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Sorcha O'Connor

Sorcha O'Connor

Team Great Britain carried off the Aga Khan Trophy for the first time in six years after yesterday's Nations' Cup at the Dublin Horse Show.

Finishing with just one time fault, it was the UK's first win of the prestigious event since 2013 and their 27th victory of all time in the competition.

Ireland finished third, while Italy claimed second place.

Cian O'Connor was the first to go from Team Ireland on PSG Final. Paul O'Shea rode Skara Glen's Machu Picchu while Corkman Shane Sweetnam rode Chaqui Z.

Darragh Kenny from Offaly - who ranks 13th in the world - was on Important De Muze.

And although Limerick man O'Shea achieved a "double clear" - the only one of the Irish riders to do so - there was no beating the on-form British team.

The winning team was appropriately made up of two women and two men - Emily Moffitt, who is just 21, Holly Smith, Ben Maher and Scott Brash - as this week celebrated 100 years since women began show-jumping at the Dublin Horse Show.

"We got a good team together with a good spirit and I felt like it could happen this week - and it did," said their chef d'equipe, Di Lampard.

Meanwhile Ireland's chef d'equipe, Rodrigo Pessoa, commended the strength of the victors.

"Things didn't go our way but that is the way it is," he said.

"The British were very strong - third place isn't a disgrace but not what we were hoping for."

Each of the fences asked a question of the riders, according to assistant designer Frank Glynn.

"It has to be fair - there's no tricks. It has to be 76 seconds of concentration from the competitors," he said.

And even though the rain lashed down and a blustery wind blew, the bad weather couldn't dismantle the fences because they were pinned down and very heavy, he said.

There was also plenty of attention to detail in the themes of the fences.

Fence six incorporated the Tara Brooch while fence nine celebrated Irish literature, featuring names such as John McGahern and Sally Rooney beside Yeats, Heaney and Joyce.

Red 'sold-out' signs were stuck to the doors of the RDS from first thing yesterday as the crowds rolled in for the main event of the week.

Horse fan Amelia Flynn (10) had been lucky enough to get tickets in advance and attended with her mum and grandmother, Ann and Nuala Tomany. Amelia was also one of the hundreds of young fans who were hoping to meet the equine world's biggest social media star Esme Higgs yesterday. The 18-year-old from Brighton garners 10 million views online every month between her YouTube channel 'This Esme' and her Instagram account.

A queue as long as the one for Ladies' Day entries formed early in the day for a meet and greet with the internet sensation, whose videos touch on everything from horse welfare to jumping fences with her Irish ponies Casper and Mickey.

In the line was Zara O'Connell (10), who had an early start from Belfast to meet her idol.

"I broke my wrist and I couldn't ride my horse so I watched her videos instead," she said.

Zara's mum Liz said the family had originally intended to attend the show on Thursday but when they learned Esme would be in attendance yesterday, their booking was swiftly changed.

Meanwhile, something of a warm-up act ahead of the Nations' Cup in the main arena was equine artist Santi Serra. Riding bareback, the Spaniard commanded three horses, who stood on their hind legs and performed intricate dance movements in sequence.

Irish Independent

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