An Irish team representing the Association of Irish Riding Clubs narrowly missed out on a podium finish in the CSO Mondial des Clubs (World Club Tournament) at the Generali Open Clubs De France last week where they finished fourth of the ten participating nations.
It was the Association’s first time to send a team to compete in the tournament against teams from the UK, Luxembourg, France, Algeria, Gabon, Togo, Palestine, Ivory Coast and this years tournament winners, Suriname, the smallest country in South America.
The team chef d’equipe Lawrence Smyth said,
When I first saw the spectacle that is the Equestrian Parc at Lamotte, I was both mesmerised and delighted. Our team rose to the challenge and performed magnificently not only in the competitions but also in their interaction with the other teams. To witness the banter between our team and the French, Suriname, Ivory Coast, UK, etc, was remarkable.
For me, one of the most extraordinary aspects was the warmth of the welcome afforded to us by the FFE staff, the French people in general, and the people from the other nations.
The friendly tournament takes place each year at the Federal Equestrian Park in Lamotte- Beuvron during the 10 day Generali Open Clubs De France show which attracts approximately 25,000 entries across a multitude of disciplines.
The three round World Club Tournament took place over two days at the venue where the Irish quartet from Donegal Gaeltacht Riding Club got off to a solid start on their hired horses to finish on 4 penalties after Cassandra McGee (Atina De Capavi) and Patricia Warren (Qasting Du Gravier) produced clear rounds while Michael Mc Hugh returned with one pole down on Quapucine Des Monts while John McDaid provided the discard on Pinda D’Oudairies.
This left them level with the Ivory Coast and the UK in joint fifth place behind the leaders, France, Luxembourg and Suriname on zero penalties and Gabon who picked up two-time penalties.
The following day, however, fortunes change during the second round as Team Ireland redoubled its effort to added nothing and this brought them up the leader board to joint first place along with Luxembourg and Suriname on 4 penalties.
The hosts, France racked up 8 penalties to drop out of the leading pack while the Ivory Coast had 12 penalties with Gabon next on 19. The UK were further back on 22 penalties while Palestine were on 24. Togo and Algeria were well off the pace at this stage.
It all came down to the third round where Team Ireland picked up four faults after both Cassandra McGee and Patricia Warren produced their third clear round each for the team while Michael McHugh and John McDaid both returned with just one pole on the floor.
This left the team on a total of 8 penalties and level with the French behind Suriname who won the tournament with the fastest time with Luxembourg in second place.
The French however, just kept the Irish team off the podium as their accumulated time of 155.32 was quicker than the Irish quartets time of 158.63.
Cassandra McGee was one of the star performers as she jumped three clear rounds for the team. The Letterkenny resident described the event as, “it really was an amazing experience to be competing in the world tournament. The place was unbelievably huge and people were incredibly friendly and helpful. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience. We were very lucky that we got such amazing horses that helped so much.”
Patricia Warren also completed a hat trick of clear rounds and was honoured to get the chance to represent Ireland, “I felt quite a bit overwhelmed with the experience as it was on such a massive scale. The crowds, the standard of jumping, the atmosphere, the weather, the horses, the people, the help and support from people we had never met and could hardly communicate with, was incredible.
“I’d like to thank all those involved in selecting us and giving us this fantastic once in a lifetime opportunity to compete internationally and represent our country, and all those in Ireland who gave us very generous and heartfelt support and all those that we met abroad that treated us so well and went to extraordinary lengths to help us,” she added.
Michael McHugh said,
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience competing for Team Ireland. It was great to interact with other nations and locals who were also competing in the competition and share the same passion for equestrian sports. We were given an unbelievable welcome by the French people and it made you feel proud to be Irish.”
John Mc Daid said it was an amazing spectacle, “with masses of horses being ridden in exercise areas in the morning. The unbelievable acceptance of all nations towards us was incredible. They were delighted with the Irish humour.”
After such a successful outing at this years tournament, the Association is hopeful of sending another team to next years tournament should an invitation be received.