IRELAND BATTLES BACK TO FINISH THIRD IN USA NATIONS’ CUP

The Irish show jumping team of Darragh Kenny, Shane Sweetnam, Cian O’Connor and Kevin Babington finished third in the Nations’ Cup at Wellington in Florida last night (Friday), pulling up from equal fifth at the end of the first round.

Fifth to jump of nine nations competing, an uncharacteristic four faults from opener Darragh Kenny and Hyperion Stud LLC’s Imothep failed to match first round clears from the home team’s Todd Minikus and Canada’s Tiffany Foster, and when Irish number two Shane Sweetnam and Spy Coast Farm LLC’s Chaqui Z collected eight faults, Irish confidence started to waver.

Cian O’Connor then posted four faults with Adena Springs’s Quidam’s Cherie, while anchorman Kevin Babington and Shorapur LLC’s Shorapur also collected four penalties.

However, though lying equal fifth at the break on 12 faults, the Irish fought back with two classic clear rounds from Sweetnam and O’Connor, leaving a final total of 16 penalty points after Kenny had the drop score of eight faults and Babington again collected four. This was enough to slot into third place behind winners USA and runners-up Canada.

Ireland has now had one Nations’ Cup win and one Nations’ Cup third place in the USA this month, having taken victory earlier in February at Ocala, also in Florida. Neither competition, however, was part of the 2015 top Furusiyya League, so Ireland did not collect league points. Team manager Robert Splaine, however, was at both shows to assess the capabilities of US-based riders and horses that may form part of Ireland’s European squads for the important Furusiyya contests later this year.