2021 WAS another challenging year for Irish show jumping on the national circuit. The beginning of the TRM Spring Tour was delayed because of Covid-19 restrictions, while underage and amateur athletes failed to get the go ahead early in the season.

There were plenty of restrictions for owners too, and added complications of contract tracings, mask wearing and social distancing.

However, the season did get going and thanks to loyal sponsors, it was filled with plenty of highs.

While the loss of the traditional Dublin Horse Show for the second year in a row was disappointing, the RDS put on a successful National Championship which bridged the gap for young horses, allowing them to get a chance to jump in the magnificent big arena.

Horse Sport Ireland were among those sponsors who held up the industry this year and among the biggest competitions they supported was the 1.50m HSI Premier Grand Prix Series, out of which the national champion for 2021 was crowned.

That coveted title went the way of Sligo native Kevin Gallagher aboard the Irish Sport Horse gelding Ballypatrick Flamenco. It was a first national champion title for the rider who is based at Greg Broderick’s Ballypatrick Stables in Thurles, Co Tipperary.

There was a tight finish to the five-round series with Gallagher and Clem McMahon (Hilton Pacato) sharing the lead on a score of 28 heading into the final.

Gallagher won the first round in Barnadown ahead of McMahon who was runner-up. McMahon then took the win in the second round in Portmore. He stayed on track adding the win at the next round in Balmoral, but Gallagher managed to secure second place at the Belfast venue to add to his points tally.

Heading into the penultimate round in Mullingar, McMahon held a 10-point lead but Gallagher then produced a win just when he needed it to level up to 28 points apiece.

When Gallagher jumped clear in the first round of the final leg in Barnadown and McMahon failed to make it through, he knew the title was his and despite only finishing seventh on the day, Gallagher won with 31 points.

It was a big achievement for the 24-year-old, who was runner-up in 2020. “I am delighted to be crowned Irish National Champion,” he commented afterwards. “I started riding Ballypatrick Flamenco soon after I started riding for Greg. He is an unbelievable consistent horse. Out of five legs, he had two wins, a second and a seventh; he was double clear in three of them. He is going to go on to do huge things in the future.

“Dr Noel Cawley bred him. Noel has been a great supporter of Ballypatrick Stables for years, so I am just delighted that this horse was able to be crowned National Champion, he really deserved it.

“Myself and Clem were level on points coming in. It was straightforward today – whoever finished highest was going to be crowned champion. I was second to go on startlist; I just went in and jumped my clear round and Clem had one down in the first round and it took the pressure off in the jump-off.”

By Je T’Aime Flamenco, Ballypatrick Flamenco was bred by Dr Noel Cawley out of Cruise Leaf (Cruising) and is owned by GBBS International.

Read all the 2021 reviews from the national show jumping scene here.