THE Irish equestrian industry celebrated a medal-filled year and the historic success of qualifying three team for next summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games at Horse Sport Ireland’s inspiring Medal Reception in Killashee House Hotel on Thursday.
Horse Sport Ireland chair, Joe Reynolds, and CEO Ronan Murphy, welcomed guests from near and far to the reception. Sport Ireland were represented by chairperson Kieran Mulvey and High Performance director Paul McDermott, while team managers from senior level to ponies were in the room to reflect on a record breaking year.
Ireland are among seven teams who managed to qualify a team in every discipline for Tokyo alongside Australia, Brazil, Germany, Britain, Sweden and the USA.
Galway native and eventing superstar Cathal Daniels (23) was in attendance to collect yet another award for his phenomenal season, and, later in the day, he was later named on the longlist for the RTÉ Sports Award 2019 Sportsperson of the Year.
Daniels claimed the individual bronze medal at the senior European championships in Luhmühlen, Germany with the Irish Sport Horse mare Rioghan Rua (ISH), whose owner and breeder, Mags Kinsella, sat proudly while brilliant video footage of the pair was shown. It was their sixth championship medal as a combination; the first came in the junior ranks in 2013.
Daniels stood next to German legends Ingrid Klimke (gold) and Michael Jung (silver) on the podium in early September. “It’s hard to believe Rioghan Rua is only 12 years old. We have done a lot of championships together, been very successful at nearly all of them. She’s been a horse of a lifetime already. She’s young, she’s fit and she’s ready for next year,” Daniels said of the Jack of Diamonds-sired chesnut.
Daniels of course was part of the Irish eventing squad that included Sam Watson, Sarah Ennis, Padraig McCarthy and Patricia Ryan that secured World Championship team silver and Olympic qualification in 2018 managed by Sally Corscadden.
Girls in Green
The history-making ‘Girls in Green’ dressage team were reunited on Thursday and honoured for their achievement of getting an Irish dressage team to the Olympic Games for the first time ever. Judy Reynolds and Anna Merveldt made their way to Kildare from Europe and were joined by teammates Kate Dwyer and Heike Holstein.
Judy Reynolds, speaking on the RTÉ Six One news, said: “I think the heat and weather will be the biggest factor. The people that fail to prepare are really going to lose out because of that. That’s going to be very much key. Personally, the riders have been into the Sport Institute Ireland in Abbotstown and we have all been assessed on fitness levels and we will be back in January and they expect to see improvements from everyone on all fronts. We are working away trying to improve those levels.”
Paul O’Shea flew in from the USA to represent the senior show jumping team of Cian O’Connor, Darragh Kenny, Peter Moloney and Shane Sweetnam who achieved last gasp Olympic qualification in sensational style when winning the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona in October, under team manager Rodrigo Pessoa. Development team manager Michael Blake and Taylor Vard were representing the jumping High Performance committee.
As he so often does, O’Shea paid tribute to his horse, Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu and thanked his owners, some of who also travelled to Kildare for the occasion. “I am very fortunate to have the ride on a horse like Machu Picchu and I am just very grateful to have him. I am at this a long time and to finally get a horse like this means a lot.”
This year saw GAIN-sponosred Irish youth athletes win a combined five European medals in the disciplines of show jumping and eventing. Gary Marshall’s pony show jumping team of John McEntee, Niamh McEvoy, Tom Wachman, Francis Derwin and Max Wachman won gold in Strzegom, Poland, while Max Wachman took the individual gold with Coolmore Showjumping’s Cuffesgrange Cavalidam (ISH).
While in underage eventing, Becky Cullen’s pony team of Grace Tyrell, Alex Connors, Brian Kuehnle, Tiggy Hancock, Olivia Swan and Susan Shanahan won team bronze at the same venue.
James Kernan’s junior show jumping team of Kate Derwin, Harry Allen, Jack Ryan, Ciaran Nallon and Seamus Hughes Kennedy landed team bronze in Zuidwolde, The Netherlands, before Derwin won individual gold with Francis Derwin’s AHG Whiterock Cruise Down (ISH).
Seamus Hughes-Kennedy, Joanne Hurley of GAIN Equine Nutrition, James Kernan. Ronan Murphy CEO of Horse Sport Ireland, and Kate Derwin at the HSI Medal Reception \ Matt Browne Sportsfile
In an amazing achievement, Irish riders won four of the nine medals on offer at the 2019 FEI World Breeding Championships for Young Horses at Lanaken. Seamus Hughes Kennedy claimed victory in the seven-year-old World Championship with Cuffesgrange Cavadora (ISH), who is the daughter of Wachman’s gold medal-winning pony, bred by Eamonn Sheahan and owned by Clare Hughes.
Jason Foley and the ISH Rockwell RC, bred by Ronan Byrne and owned by Kevin Crumley, also took victory in the final for five-year-old horses, while Kildare’s Mikey Pender and Chacco Bay (OLDBG) finished as runners-up.
Pender also stood second on the podium in the six-year-old final with MHS Cardenta (ISH) bred by Thomas Brennan and owned by Marion Hughes and Miguel Bravo.
Joe Reynolds, HSI chair: “I would like to thank the all-important owners, where would we be without the owners! We also have a lot of the breeders here and that is again key to the industry, because it is the industry of sport. Most importantly, the funders in terms of Sport Ireland. I thank Kieran (Mulvey) and Paul (McDermott) for making the time to be with us. We wouldn’t be going to Tokyo if they weren’t behind us.”
Ronan Murphy, HSI CEO: “When I look back on what has been achieved, I am struck by two things – the athletes’ will to win and their incredible team spirit. For the very first time in our history, we have secured Olympic qualification for our eventing, dressage and jumping team. Ireland joins an elite group of just six other nations to complete this feat. This is a hugely significant achievement and one that has brought Horse Sport Ireland and the industry great pride.”
Seamus Hughes Kennedy: “I rode the dam of Cuffesgrange Cavadora (Cuffesgrane Cavalidam) in the ponies two years previous before she went to Max Wachman who won double gold [at the Pony European Championships] so it was really good to have both of them win gold this year.”
Kate Derwin: “I was very, very focused on winning a gold medal because I just missed out on a medal last year. He [AHG Whiterock Cruise Down] went there and he wanted a medal as much as I did. I was very last to go and the whole team was standing around the gate cheering me on and when you have that it’s very easy to do.”
Sally Corscadden: “It’s absolutely fantastic, everyone should be so proud in Horse Sport Ireland and the larger equestrian industry. We are raising our game in every phase and it shows, especially making history with the dressage team. To have a dressage alongside the eventers and show jumpers just gives you an extra boost. It really makes you want to go out there and make everyone proud.”
Ronan Murphy, CEO of Horse Sport Ireland, Judy Reynolds, Heike Holstein, Kate Dwyer, Anna Mervedlt, and Joe Reynolds, Chairman of Horse Sport Ireland \ Matt Browne Sportsfile