The Irish Show Jumping team, sponsored by The Underwriting Exchange and Devenish, have finished in a tie for second place after a thrilling Longines FEI Nations Cup of Ireland for the Aga Khan Trophy today (Friday) at the Dublin Horse Show, where history was made as Mexico lifted the famous Aga Khan trophy for the very first time.
A tense competition was not decided until the very last horse left the arena, with Mexico, led by Stanny Van Paesschen, finishing on a two round total of eight faults to take victory. Italy, France and the home team from Ireland all finished on 12 faults in a share of second place, ahead of USA in fifth, Britain in sixth, Netherlands seventh and Switzerland in eighth.
Ireland were in the lead at the halfway stage, after Cork's Shane Sweetnam got Rodrigo Pessoa's team off to an excellent start when he jumped clear with Main Road when first to go. Co Louth's Mark McAuley then also completed a foot-perfect clear aboard Utchan De Belheme, before Limerick's Paul O'Shea and Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu came home with just four faults. Last to go in the first round for Ireland, Mayo's Cameron Hanley and the 9-year-old Quirex jumped a brilliant clear round under pressure, meaning Ireland could discard the four faults for O'Shea and finish the first round on a zero score. Italy were lurking close behind in second on four faults, while France, USA and Mexico were in a share of third place at that stage on eight faults.
Sweetnam lowered a single fence second time out, before McAuley and Utchan De Belheme were eliminated for an uncharacteristic two refusals. The pressure was then really on Ireland's last two riders knowing every fault would count.
O'Shea lowered a fence at the first part of the combination, but brought it home on just the four faults to keep Ireland in the hunt. With the just the last line riders left to jump, Ireland, France, Mexico and Italy were all tied for the lead on eight faults. Cameron Hanley entered the arena as last to jump, knowing a clear round would put Ireland into a jump-off with Mexico. He was clear coming into the closing stages of his round, however a light rub at the combination saw a pole fall to the floor, leaving Mexico to celebrate a famous win.
Speaking afterwards, Rodrigo Pessoa was pleased with his team and praised Mexico for their victory:
"Firstly I would like to congratulate the Mexican team and Stanny Van Paesschen on a fantastic win. They were two fences behind us after the first round but they came back, they rode really, really well. We had a really good first round and put ourselves where we wanted to be. In the second round we had a couple of mistakes but overall our guys were good. We came close and one thing is for sure, we will be back next year to try again."
Ireland's share of second place saw them also finish as runners-up on the final league table in Europe Division 1, and will take their place in the Longines FEI Nations Cup World Final in Barcelona in October.
Irish attention will now turn to the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon USA, with Rodrigo Pessoa set to name his final squad in the coming days.