For the second year in-a-row, the Irish Show Jumping team have finished as runners-up in the FEI Nations Cup at Wellington in Florida, with a jump-off needed to separate Ireland and the USA for the title.
It was only the second time in the 18-year history of the Nations Cup at the Winter Equestrian Festival that there had been a jump-off to determine the winner, with Ireland and the USA finishing tied on eight faults apiece after two rounds of jumping.
Irish development team manager Michael Blake fielded a team that included four horses making their Nations Cup debut.
Derry’s Daniel Coyle riding the Ariel Grange-owned Farona and Co Down’s Lorcan Gallagher with Hunters Conlypso II, owned by the Dacantos Group, both jumped perfect double clear rounds.
Cork’s Shane Sweetnam and Spy Coast Farm’s Kirschwasser SCF finished with one fence down in the first round and eight in the second, while Limerick’s Paul O’Shea and Tequestrian Farms-owned Imerald Van’t Voorhof finished with one fence down in each round. This left Ireland tied with the USA on eight faults to set up a jump-off.
Coyle and Farona were selected to go against the clock for the Irish but unfortunately finished with 12 faults. World No.2 McLain Ward and Contagious then jumped clear to secure victory for the home team.
Canada finished third of the nine teams that took part on 13 faults.
Lorcan Gallagher, who was competing in only his second senior Nations Cup, said: “It’s a bittersweet night, but I’m very happy and proud with my own horse tonight and the American team was very competitive. We were all on horses that were competing in a Nations Cup for the first time.
"Obviously, we are disappointed we didn’t get the win when we were that close. Each round, a couple of rails fell that maybe wouldn’t have another day, but it’s great to have this competition here for us and to see what the horses are capable of. [We are] building towards qualifying for Barcelona and for the European Championships to qualify for the Olympics. We still haven’t done that, so that is the main goal.”
Ireland now turn their attention to their first points-scoring outing under team manager Rodrigo Pessoa in Europe Division 1, which will come at La Baule in France on May 19.