Billy Twomey galloped to the rescue for the second day in succession at the FEI European Jumping Championships in Madrid, Spain yesterday with another fabulous clear round that clinched an all-important top-10 finishing place for the Irish show jumping team and second spot in the ongoing battle for the individual medals, writes Louise Parkes.
It was a day filled with drama as Irish opener Shane Sweetnam left two fences on the floor and then Nicola FitzGibbon and Puissance picked up 21 faults on a tense tour of the 13-fence track. That piled the pressure on the remaining two riders, and when Denis Lynch's Lantinus became one of the many to fall foul of the open water, and then hit the first element of the penultimate double, Twomey's result became crucial.
But the Cork-born British-based Irishman steered Tinka's Serenade home fault-free to help Ireland into seventh place in the team competition and to move into silver medal spot in the individual rankings.
Ireland's main target at this week is to clinch one of the last three remaining qualifying spots for next year's Olympic Games and Twomey had that clearly in mind last night, despite his own rising chance of individual glory. "We just have to keep fighting every inch of the way" he said.
The Ireland U-17s produced the display they needed as they drew with Serbia 1-1 in a friendly match in Wexford before embarking on their UEFA Championship qualifying campaign next month.
John Morling's side lost 2-0 to Serbia on Tuesday, but were vastly improved for the rematch.
Ireland conceded after just 16 minutes last night when Aleska Bajic finished off a move engineered by captain Milan Jokic.
However, Jonathan Leddy got Ireland back on level terms on the half-hour mark. Serbia 'keeper Uros Matic was penalised for stepping outside his area and from the free-kick, Dylan Hayes set-up Leddy to score.
Ireland's Gary O'Neill then smacked a penalty off the post and in the last minute, Serbia's Milosevic was sent-off for scything down Thomas Mulroney.
Ireland -- Fagan (Coventry City); Long (Cherry Orchard), McConnell (Glencar), R. O'Reilly (Stoke City), Finnegan (Doncaster Rovers); McGlade (Middlesbrough), Wixted (Derby County), Leddy (Ipswich Town), Mulroney (Crumlin United); Hayes (Derby County); Wilkinson (Millwall). Subs: Byrne (Manchester United) for Wixted (h/t), Grealish (Aston
Villa) for Wilkinson, O'Neill (Wolves) for McGlade (both 59)
Ref -- K Callanan.
Overall winner of the BMW J24 European Championship Mark Penfold from Rochester, New York stood back to see the trophy lifted by second placed Ian Southworth and Chris McLaughlin from Cowes after a nine- race series off Howth that was only decided in the final contest yesterday.
The American and British boats had an exclusive duel at the head of the 43-boat fleet that squeezed a full series out of little more than two days after gales disrupted the opening of the programme last weekend.
Flor O'Driscoll was best of the home fleet with Hard On Port in 10th.