THE Irish show jumping team finished sixth in this morning's opening five-star Nations Cup of the season at Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates.
Team manager Cameron Hanley's side, who were by far the youngest team in the competition, were in joint fifth place at the halfway stage on a 12 fault total. The first round highlight was a superb clear round from Limerick's Paul Kennedy and Jane Kennedy's 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare Cartown Danger Mouse. The pair were again hugely impressive second time out and added just four faults at the combination to their score.
Galway’s Michael Duffy, got Ireland off to an excellent start in the second round with a perfect clear aboard the Alan Burnell-owned Belcanto Z, adding to an impressive first round for the pair where they lowered just the last fence.
Derry’s David Simpson and Chessy 17, owned by Elm Rock LLC, picked up eight faults in the opening round and finished strongly, with just a foot in the water their only fault in the second round.
Ireland finished on a two round total of 20 faults, with victory going to an impressive French team on just four faults. Qatar finished as runners-up ahead of Italy in third, with Switzerland and Germany sharing fourth place. It was a historic day for the host nation United Arab Emirates, as for the very first time, they booked a ticket to the 2017 Nations Cup final in Barcelona. Two places for the final were on offer for Middle East countries in today's competition, with UAE and Qatar taking the coveted qualifying spots, while Saudi Arabia were the ones to miss out.
Speaking afterwards, Irish Team Manager for Al Ain, Cameron Hanley said: “I would have been happier with a higher placing but there were a lot of positives today. This was a great opportunity for a young team to compete at five-star level. Both Paul Kennedy and Michael Duffy had great rounds and were unfortunate not to jump double clear and David Simpson and Antony Condon both improved second time round. Personally for me, even though I wasn’t riding myself, it was a great experience a honour to work with the Irish team.”
Gerry Mullins, chairman of the Horse Sport Ireland High Performance Show Jumping Committee said: "On behalf of the HSI Show Jumping High Performance Committee, I am delighted that Cameron Hanley had such a good result in this five-star Nations Cup, particularly with the younger riders on the team. This was Cameron's first time as Chef d'Equipe and I am sure the help and advice that Cameron gave the full team was invaluable and we look forward to even greater success in the future."
Al Ain Nations Cup - Irish scores:
Michael Duffy with Belcanto Z 4/0
David Simpson with Chessy 8/4
Paul Kennedy with Cartown Danger Mouse (ISH) 0/4
Anthony Condon with Balzac (12) / (9)
Cartown Danger Mouse (ISH) – 2006 bay mare by Harlequin Du Carel (SF) out of Missy Boo (ISH). Bred by Paul G Kennedy, Co. Limerick. Owner: Jane Kennedy. Rider: Paul Kennedy (IRL)