THE Irish show jumping team of Darragh Kenny, Lorcan Gallagher, Kevin Babington and Conor Swail swept to victory in tonight's (Friday) FEI Furusiyya Nations Cup in Ocala, Florida, finishing on a total of just four faults.
Ireland's victory was made remarkable by the fact that all four horses had not competed at Nations' Cup level before, while one rider, 23 year-old Lorcan Gallagher from Co. Down, was making his debut in a senior team.
Up against five talented American teams, with the USA and Canada favourites to win, the Irish quartet changed the dynamic of the competition in the first round with four consecutive clear rounds.
Tipperary's Kevin Babington with the mare Shorapur delivered another clear in the second round, as did Co. Down's Conor Swail with Grafton, ensuring an against-the-odds Irish victory. The USA finished on eight faults, while Canada and Colombia tied for third place on 12 faults.
Irish show jumping team manager Robert Splaine said from Ocala tonight: "Four clears in the first round with four new horses was exceptional, and then to get double clears from Kevin and Conor was superb. Man of the match has to be Lorcan Gallagher, who with a clear and four faults did an exceptional job in his first time at this level.
"There is a great tradition between the US and Ireland with so many of our riders now based here, and Ocala proved to be a superb show. Our victory was only made possible by the great owners who support the team."
Though Ocala was not a points-scoring show for Ireland in the Furusiyya league, it did give manager Splaine an opportunity to watch new US-based combinations competing at a top level.
Darragh Kenny/Picolo 0/8
Lorcan Gallagher/Diktator Van De Boslandhoeve 0/4
Kevin Babington/Shorapur 0/0
Conor Swail/Grafton 0/0