AN Irish team that featured two Aga Khan rookies came within one fence of claiming the famous trophy for the first time since 2004 at the Dublin Horse Show on Friday.
In one of the closest finishes ever recorded, Ireland and Britain finished the two rounds of the FEI Nations’ Cup on eight faults apiece, forcing a jump-off that was in the end decided by a single error.
Today’s best Irish performance came from Kanturk’s Shane Sweetnam and ‘Amaretto Darco’ who, though making their first Aga Khan appearance, delivered the team’s only double clear round, while fellow debutant, 23 year-old Nicola FitzGibbon from Kildare, faulted once in her first round but came home clear in the final round with her own gelding ‘Puissance’.
Tipperary’s Denis Lynch had one mistake and a time fault in the first round, and collected another four faults with ‘All Inclusive NRW’ second time out.
Cork-born Billy Twomey and the mare ‘Tinka’s Serenade’ carried the biggest pressure of the competition, clear in the first round but last to jump in the final round when another zero score would have won the trophy, but deciding to retire after having one fence down, unable to further improve on the team score.
France, who had been leading after the first round on a zero score, yielded to equal third-placed Britain in the second round, with the British returning a series of clear rounds that brought them into equal first with Ireland.
Team Ireland Equestrian’s show jumping manager Robert Splaine selected Twomey and ‘Tinka’s Serenade’ to compete in the jump-off against British veteran Nick Skelton and ‘Carlo’, but though Skelton was first out he came home clear. Twomey, forced to go for speed in order to challenge the Skelton score, came unstuck after lowering one fence, and decided to retire.
Afterwards Splaine said: “Of course I’m disappointed we didn’t win, for we had some chances and we didn’t take them all, but I’m very, very proud of the team, who did an exceptional job in tying for first place after the second round. Britain gave us a good battle, and we had the support of the home crowd, who gave us a great reception, and I wish we could have won for them. I also thought Nicola FitzGibbon, at just 23, did a remarkable job for us.”
Ireland now lie in fourth place in the eight-team FEI Superleague, which finishes in Rotterdam on August 26th, with the two lowest-scoring teams being relegated.
Ireland last won the Aga Khan trophy in 2004 with the team of Marion Hughes, Jessica Kurten, Cian O’Connor and Billy Twomey.
SHOW JUMPING RESULTS: CSIO5* DUBLIN IRELAND AUGUST 3-7 2011
FEI Nations Cup of Ireland
Table A in two Rounds (Art. 264)
Friday August 5 2011
1) Great Britain 8 faults (after jump-off)
2) Ireland 8 faults (after jump-off)
Shane Sweetnam/Amaretto Darco 0/0
Nicola FitzGibbon/Puissance 4/0
Denis Lynch/All Inclusive NRW 5/4
Billy Twomey/Tinka’s Serenade 0/Retd
=3) Belgium 12 faults
=3) France 12 faults
5) United States 16 faults
6) Germany 24 faults
7) Netherlands 25 faults
8) Denmark 40 faults
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