The Irish are Back in the Samsung Super League with FEI Series for 2008
RELEASE: November 1, 2007
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Malina Gueorguiev
Although the final leg of the FEI Nations Cup series does not take place until next week in Buenos Aires, Irish show jumping is already celebrating the return to the premier Samsung Super League with FEI in 2008.
After a determined and successful 2007 campaign, the Irish advantage at the top of the FEI Nations Cup league table is unassailable, so the FEI can confirm that Ireland will line out alongside Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, Sweden, the United States, The Netherlands and Belgium when the new season begins next May.
This is excellent news for the country that was so devastated when relegated from the elite eight-nation series last September following a desperate struggle for survival. A clear decision was taken by the Irish Federation and team manager Robert Splaine to fight back in 2007, and the riders enthusiastically supported it. The only way to achieve promotion is through winning the second-division FEI Nations Cup series, and they made that their target for the year.
Things got off to a good start with a second placing at the opening leg in Wellington, FL, in March while victory in Linz-Ebelsbeg, Austria, two months later raised expectations even further, but that was followed by a disappointing outing in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the end of May when things went awry and Ireland had to settle for ninth place. Picking themselves up and dusting themselves off is one of the things that the Irish do best however, and they came back with all guns blazing to record their second win of the season at Poznan in Poland in June.
A sixth finishing spot at Hamina in Finland later that month was followed by their third victory, this time in Drammen in Norway and when they made it a back-to-back double when coming out on top at Lummen in Belgium at the beginning of July, their prospects were looking better all the time. They headed up the leaderboard for much of the season and despite another stumble, when finishing seventh in Falsterbo, Sweden, they improved to fourth in Gijon and then rounded up their season with runner-up results in Prague, Lisbon and Zagreb in September.
The statistics for 2007 show that Ireland's star performers were Cian O'Connor, Conor Swail, Comdt Gerry Flynn and Capt. Shane Carey, who between them accounted for a total of 31 clear rounds and 10 double-clear rounds. American-based Irishman Darragh Kerins produced a double-clear in Wellington and Ryan Crumley, Marion Hughes, Denis Lynch, Shane Breen and Edward Doyle also contributed clear-round performances to the team effort.
Carey holds the record for most appearances during the season. He competed on eight teams while O'Connor and Flynn lined out seven times, but it was O'Connor who produced the greatest number of double-clears with four in total; three partnering the mare Irish Independent Echo Beach and one with Complete.
Team manager Robert Splaine is really looking forward to Ireland's return to the premier level of Nations Cup jumping and is delighted with the commitment shown by his squads who made it possible. "This is a culmination of the effort, hard work and team spirit put in by the riders involved. They were a pleasure to work with, and I would like to sincerely thank them, the owners, and all who helped me along the way," he said today.
"It is my hope that in 2008 we'll be in a better position within the Samsung Super League with FEI series than we were in 2006 when we spent most of the year struggling to avoid relegation. We are stronger and more determined after having to fight our way back to the top, but the Super League is where we want to be, even though it is very tough, and I know we will have a challenging year ahead," he added.
Speaking at the Three-Star Northern Ireland International Horse Show in Belfast over the weekend, Conor Swail put it into perspective. "We were aware that we needed to start the season well, and we did that