Olympic heartbreak for Irish in team jumping championship
Ireland missed out on an Olympic qualifying spot by the narrowest of margins yesterday when finishing seventh in the team jumping championship at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Caen.
However three of the Irish team members have easily made the cut into today's two-round penultimate competition from which the top four will go through to decide the individual title on Sunday.
There were five spots in Rio 2016 up for grabs and the when host nation of Brazil, which is already automatically qualified, slotted into fifth yesterday, then sixth-placed Sweden squeezed in ahead of the Irish.
Gold went to The Netherlands, silver to France and bronze to the USA while Germany lined up fourth on another afternoon of tough sport.
Things were looking really promising when Darragh Kenny and Imothep opened the Irish account with just a single time penalty.
The 27-year-old US-based Offalyman punched the air with delight as he crossed the line on the 11-year-old stallion, but first-day class-winner Bertram Allen had four faults with Molly Malone at the last element of the treble at fence seven and that proved pivotal at the end of the day.
Allen's redoubtable grey mare looked still full of running, but the treble penalised a number of top combinations throughout the day.
When Denis Lynch rode to the rescue with a fabulous clear from All Star, it seemed Ireland was still in with a real chance.
The weight fell heavily on the final partnership of Cameron Hanley and Antello Z. If they could keep a clean sheet then Allen's four faults could be dropped and only Kenny's single time fault would be added to the Irish total and the Swedes would be elbowed out of the last Olympic qualification spot by a narrow margin.
However, the Mayo rider's gelding hasn't been showing his best form this week and, once he lowered the bogey second fence, a wide parallel which penalised a massive number of horses during the day, the ticket to Rio was gone before he also hit the vertical at fence nine.
Hanley is the only one who hasn't made it through to the penultimate challenge in the D'Ornano football stadium.
Lynch is lying 19th followed by Allen in 20th while Kenny is in 24th place as the competition begins.
Both Lynch and Allen are less than two fences off America's Beezie Madden, who heads the individual leaderboard carrying just 0.16 penalty points after three fabulous clear rounds with Cortes C.
Irish Chef d'Equipe Robert Splaine said: "We were one of the better teams here today and to finish one place out of the Olympic qualification zone was very disappointing. I'm gutted for the lads, as their effort was tremendous."