DESPITE high hopes and expectations, 2021 turned out to be a somewhat frustrating year for Irish eventing. It was saved largely by some outstanding performances in the underage sector, and with the exception of Austin O’Connor’s brilliant performance at the Olympic Games, senior honours proved elusive.
The youngsters however, were on great form. The pony squad, spearheaded by individual silver medallist Ben Connors, claimed bronze in Strzegom, while a squad of young riders landed team silver in Sweden.
For the seniors however, the season was certainly not a vintage one. The delay to the Olympic Games in Tokyo undoubtedly suited some nations, but Ireland’s contenders had been primed to peak 12 months earlier, and things did not fall their way.
The run up to the Games was beset by ongoing logistical problems - caused by both Brexit and the pandemic - as well as by last minute team changes on the countdown to the competition.
The year was given a timely boost by the announcement that the previously cancelled European Championships would now take place in Avenches, Switzerland.
This was due to some vigorous lobbying from a dedicated group of senior riders, and while the timing, just a few weeks after Tokyo was not ideal, riders relished another prospect of an international call up.
It was certainly welcomed in Ireland, giving an exciting opportunity for squad manager Sally Corscadden to trial some of the younger combinations. Once again there was some late team juggling due to niggling soundness issues, but there were some promising performances.
Competition aside, any achievements were completely overshadowed by the tragic loss of the hugely popular young rider Tiggy Hancock. Tiggy’s accident in team training, was devastating for her family, friends, and the eventing community as a whole, and through the recently formed Tiggy’s Trust, her infectious personality will never be forgotten.