Ireland crowned European Show Jumping champions after golden night in Gothenburg

Ireland crowned European Show Jumping champions after golden night in Gothenburg

Team Ireland claimed Jumping gold at the Longines FEI European Championships 2017 at the Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden tonight. L to R - Chef d'Equipe Rodrigo Pessoa, Shane Sweetnam, Denis Lynch, Bertram Allen and Cian O'Connor. (Photo: Sonya Hennessy).

Rodrigo Pessoa’s team of Shane Sweetnam, Bertram Allen, Denis Lynch and Cian O’Connor, who are sponsored by Devenish and The Underwriting Exchange, produced an outstanding performance over three demanding days of jumping, to snatch the coveted gold medal from hosts Sweden who had been leading heading into the final day at the Ullevi arena.

Cork’s Shane Sweetnam got his team off to the perfect start with a clear round aboard the Spy Coast Farm-owned Chaqui Z when first to go. Tipperary’s Denis Lynch then heaped the pressure on leaders Sweden, Switzerland lying in second and Belgium who had been tied with Ireland in third after Thursday’s second round. Lynch and Thomas Straumann’s stallion All Star crossed the line with a breath-taking clear round and as poles began to fall for the other teams Ireland moved into gold medal position.

Ireland’s anchor rider Cian O’Connor entered the ring knowing a clear or one fence down would give Ireland gold, but with no discard score due to the fact that Bertram Allen had to withdraw from the final round after a fall on Thursday, anything more than one fence down would prove costly. Riding the stallion Good Luck, owned by Adena Springs & Ronnoco Jump Ltd, O’Connor showed his experience and remained cool under pressure and produced a flawless clear round and Ireland were crowned European Champions.

The hosts Sweden claimed the silver medal in front of an ecstatic home crowd, while Switzerland took home the bronze.

Ireland’s gold medal win comes 16 years after they were last crowned European Champions European Champions at Arnhem (NED) in 2001. Tommy Wade’s team on that occasion included Kevin Babington (Carling King), Jessica Kürten (Bonita), Peter Charles (Corrada) and Dermott Lennon.(Liscalgot). Ireland won team bronze in 1979 in Rotterdam (NED) with Col Billy Ringrose as Chef d’Equipe and a team made up of Gerry Mullins (Ballinderry), Con Power (Rockbarton), John Roche (Maigh Cullin) and Eddie Macken with the legendary Boomerang.

A thrilled Irish team manager Rodrigo Pessoa said:
“I am really proud of all our riders. This win is really special. This was the goal at the start of the season, the road has been bumpy but we stuck together and showed a lot of character. I want to thank our sponsors The Underwriting Exchange, Devenish and our clothing sponsors Equiline who have been a fantastic support to us during this year. I also want to thank all our horses owners for their incredible support and all the staff at Horse Sport Ireland.

Horse Sport Ireland CEO Ronan Murphy added:

“I am extremely proud of the achievements of our senior Show Jumping athletes this week. Our high performance director Rodrigo Pessoa set the European Championships as his goal from early on in his tenure and he and his team have delivered the result we all hoped for. To win the gold medal at the European Championships is a fantastic achievement as we build towards the World Equestrian Games next year and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“Warmest congratulations to our athletes, high performance management team, grooms and support teams who have all worked so hard to deliver this success. I would also like to especially thank our high performance title sponsors, Devenish and the Underwriting Exchange along with Equiline and all our official Team Ireland supporters, our horse owners, Sport Ireland and the team at Horse Sport Ireland who have all contributed to this wonderful achievement. The future looks very bright for Irish Show Jumping with both our pony and senior teams winning gold medals in 2017,” Murphy said.

Irish riders are also in a strong position heading into Sunday’s individual final in Gothenburg. Shane Sweetam and Chaqui Z are in bronze medal position, just one place ahead of team mate Cian O’Connor in fourth, while Denis Lynch has also qualified for the final and is in 14th place.

Rodrigo Pessoa, Irish team manager, talking about the Irish team effort
“We had this goal since the beginning of the year and our road was a little bit bumpy. We had some things that happened during the year and this week too, but we stuck together, we said we win together or we lose together and they showed a lot of determination and strength today, and I’m really proud of them for sure!”

Cian O’Connor
“We spoke with Rodrigo about it last night, we thought the lights might work to our advantage, be a bit spooky and might catch out some horses. Our three stallions are all very brave and scopey, and the lights nearly helped them. We were quietly confident that we could do the business, and obviously Shane (Chaqui Z) had a really tough job going first… I was outside warming up when Denis (All Star) jumped clear and I thought – I have to match that now! I don’t even remember the round, it was all kind of a blur. But I do remember going through the finish!”

Shane Sweetnam talking about his team’s experience:
“It was fairly stressful all week to be honest. We had a big aim all year, but things didn’t go our way, there was a long time between the classes and from yesterday to today, when we knew we were down to three. We had a good dinner last night, we got together and we said we’ll keep fighting for this. As you know the Irish are always better as underdogs, and we proved that, so we are very happy to be here now!”

Denis Lynch
“What you’re here for is to deliver. Sadly I didn’t do it yesterday which would have given us a better advantage, I had the last fence down, which I take on my cap. But tonight I put the ball in the net and did what was expected of me”

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