TEAM Ireland have finished second in the first FEI Longines Nations Cup of 2018 at the five-star show in Abu Dhabi, where New Zealand made history when winning their first ever FEI Nations Cup.
Taylor Vard’s team of Cameron Hanley, David Simpson, Paul Kennedy and Shane Breen finished as runners-up after a two-way jump-off in the United Arab Emirates. Italy finished in third place with 20 faults.
Mayo’s Cameron Hanley was first in for Ireland with Aiyetoro and just had one fence down to finish with four faults. Co Derry’s David Simpson followed with Keoki and never looked like knocking a pole to come home with a clear.
Limerick’s Paul Kennedy was the discard score in round one with the Irish Sport Horse mare Cartown Danger Mouse (by Harlequin du Carel) when picking up eight faults, before the experienced anchorman Shane Breen guided Laith to an expert clear round.
Ireland were joint leaders with New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and Italy at the half way stage.
Hanley and Simpson both repeated their first round performances and Kennedy improved to just have one unlucky fence down. Breen was the second last rider to jump in the competition and could have secured an Irish win with a clear round, but there was much surprise around the ring when Laith knocked the first fence. Another pole fell to leave Breen with a second round total of eight faults and Ireland joint with New Zealand on 12 faults.
Breen went head-to-head with Samantha McIntoch and Check In in the jump-off. McIntosh was first to go and produced her third clear of the day in a time of 40.16. The time was there to be beaten but Laith, an 11-year-old stallion by Lord Z, came down on the back bar of the third fence. That, followed by a circle, and another few faults along the way saw Breen complete with 17 faults in a time of 51.79 seconds.
David Simpson’s foot-perfect double clear earned him €25,000 of the €50,000 bonus which he shared with McIntosh.
McIntosh was joined on the New Zealand team by Daniel Meech (Fine), Richard Gardner (Calisto) and Bruce Goodin (Backatorps Danny V).
Speaking afterwards, Irish Chef d'Equipe in Abu Dhabi Taylor Vard said: "Obviously when you get into a jump-off and don't win you are going to be disappointed but it's a good start to the season and plenty of positives.
"All our guys rode really well and a special mention to David Simpson and Keoki for a double clear round. They jumped well at their last show and the horse is obviously coming into form.
"We had opportunities to win in the second round but it just didn't happen. Shane and Laith were by far our most experienced combination and that's why they went in the jump-off but it didn't work out.
"I want to congratulate the New Zealand team on their win which was well deserved."
CAMERON HANLEY AIYETORO 4/4
DAVID SIMPSON KEOKI 0/0
PAUL KENNEDY CARTOWN DANGER MOUSE 8/4
SHANE BREEN LAITH 0/8