The Irish Show Jumping team have qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time in 15 years, by claiming victory in Sunday’s €1.25 Million Longines FEI Nations Cup World Final in Barcelona.
A stunning performance from Rodrigo Pessoa’s team of Peter Moloney, Paul O’Shea, Darragh Kenny and Cian O’Connor, saw them win the World Cup for the first time and book the all-important ticket to Tokyo 2020.
The result means that for the first time in history, Ireland will be represented at an Olympic Games by teams in Eventing, Dressage and Show Jumping.
That will mean additional financial pressure on Team Ireland heading to Tokyo but it is a major achievement to have team representation in all three equestrian disciplines.
Cian O’Connor won a bronze medal in show jumping for Ireland at the London Games of 2012. He had also finished in the Gold Medal position at the Athens Games of 2004 but was stripped of that after his horse, Waterford Crystal, had failed a post-event doping test.
A day of drama in Barcelona yesterday saw Waterford’s Peter Moloney and the Team Harmony-owned Chaiti’s Champion get Ireland off to a good start, when he finished with just one fence down, which was the best round of the competition at that stage.
A superb clear round from Ireland’s second rider, Paul O’Shea with Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu, owned by Machu Picchu Partners LLC, put real pressure on Italy and Colombia – Ireland’s rivals for the Olympic place.
Another clear followed from Offaly’s Darragh Kenny with Balou du Reventon, owned by Ann Thompson, and when Colombia and Italy’s third riders both picked up faults, Ireland’s place at the Tokyo Olympics was secured with one rider still to jump.
The battle to win the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final still hung in the balance however, and a third Irish clear round from Meath’s Cian O’Connor with PSG Final, owned by Ronnoco Jump Ltd, saw Ireland heap pressure on Belgium who had been leading.
The last Belgian rider looked to be heading for a clear round which would have given them their second Nations Cup Final win in-a-row. However, Gregory Wathelet’s and his horse MJT Nevados S had a run-out at the combination on the final line, meaning Ireland would be crowned Longines FEI Nations Cup winners for the first time in history.
“We had a very clear objective coming here, to get the ticket [to Tokyo] and the five riders that were here fought really hard,” said Ireland Team manager Rodrigo Pessoa.
“It’s a lot of pressure. People don’t really realise the amount of pressure that is on these riders to bring this qualification home.”
“The weight of the country is on their shoulders. It was a big ask for them today and to do it the way that they did – hats off to all five of them.”
“Horse Sport Ireland is immensely proud of our High-Performance Jumping Team and their fantastic achievement of securing qualification for the Tokyo Olympic Games,” said Horse Sport Ireland CEO Ronan Murphy.
“History has been made this afternoon as for the first time ever Ireland has qualified our three equestrian High-Performance Teams for the Summer Olympic Games. Huge congratulations to Peter, Paul, Darragh and Cian who kept their nerve under immense pressure and delivered this fantastic result for Ireland.
“I would like to thank the support teams, grooms, and especially the owners of the Team Ireland Horses who are such a pivotal part of Ireland’s success. Special thanks also to our High-Performance Director Rodrigo Pessoa and his support team, Michael Blake, Taylor Vard and Gerry Mullins, who have played a huge part in delivering this result and expertly guiding our High-performance Jumping programme in recent years.”
“I want to acknowledge the generous support of all Team Ireland sponsors and in particular Devenish, the Underwriting Exchange and Sport Ireland who have supported our senior jumping programme throughout this qualification campaign and our official clothing supplier Equiline.”
Finally, special thanks to the team at Horse Sport Ireland. Our Vision is ‘to have the best riders and horses in the world’ and with the Irish Jumping, Eventing and Dressage teams now qualified for the Olympic Games, we have an opportunity on a global stage to reinforce our position – that Ireland is indeed one of the leading equestrian Nations in the World.”