By Mike Dunne
Ireland compete against seven other countries in today’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup in a bid to lift the Aga Khan Trophy for the second year running.
A home triumph is the main goal, but as always in the FEI Nations Cup series there is a sub-plot at play, and if Ireland don’t win they may still secure a valuable prize today – qualification for the annual Nations Cup Final in Barcelona in September.
This is Ireland’s last qualification round in their Europe Division 1 league. Winning the Nations Cup of Switzerland last month has put Ireland in a reasonably strong position to qualify for Barcelona, but the job isn’t quite completed.
The Irish team today is the same as the one which won the Swiss event, except that Bertram Allen rides Hector van d’Abdijhoeve whereas he partnered Molly Malone V at St. Gallen. Denis Lynch (All Star 5), Cian O’Connor (Good Luck) and Greg Broderick (MHS Going Global) complete today’s team.
Without going into the complexities of the league system (which are explained at the We Live Horse link below), here’s how Ireland can qualify for Barcelona today:
Finish 1st, 2nd, or 3rd.
Finish equal third as long as it’s only a two-way tie
Finish in any position that’s not lower than Italy
Any of the above would wrap up qualification for Barcelona today, but even if none of those is achieved, Ireland will probably still qualify, but may have to wait for next week’s final round at Hickstead (in which Ireland are not involved) to see how their league rivals fare.
Robert Splaine has not singled out any country for particular attention today. “I don’t underestimate any teams and it would be a mistake to do so,” he said.
It is worth mentioning also that the FEI table after the Aga Khan has finished will not fully reflect the league standings, because five countries (Ireland, Germany, Czech Republic, Italy and Belgium) are allowed points from a cancelled fixture in Lummen at the start of the season, which won’t be added on until next week’s concluding fixture at Hickstead is completed.