The first Nations Cup of the the year at Lummen in Belgium under new Chef d’Equipe Rodrigo Pessoa was never expected to produce any surprises, and Ireland’s ultimate sixth place with a largely developmental team followed a familiar pattern.

Lummen has been used by various Irish Chefs to test out upcoming talent for the season ahead, or sometimes the season after that, and a total of 20 faults at the end of today’s action was not completely unexpected.

The only seasoned campaigner of the team, former world champion Dermott Lennon, seemed to have trouble maintaining complete control over an exuberant Loughview Lou Lou and produced an untypical 12 faults in the first round and eight more in the second, including a foot in the water.

Twenty-four year-old Sligo rider Richard Howley with Chinook had a fence down in the first round and a foot in the water for another four faults in the second, while Paul Kennedy (23) from Limerick and Cartown Danger Mouse clipped one fence on their first attempt, but produced a classy clear round second time out.

Anchorman Michael Duffy from Galway, at 22 the youngest rider on the Irish team, showed great promise with an opening clear round on Belcanto Z, but faulted twice in the second round.

Pessoa will have plenty to consider after today’s performances, but there’s little doubt that the two clear rounds at five-star level from Duffy and Kennedy will not have escaped his notice.

Germany, France and Belgium all ended on eight faults after today’s two Nations Cup rounds, and a three-way jump off saw Germany shade France on time, with Belgium taking third with four jump-off faults.

Eight teams in total took part today.

Ireland’s next Nations Cup outing will be at the vital La Baule show in France in May, where points are allocated, and where Pessoa and his selectors will face the absence of an injured Cian O’Connor as a squad member.

Jack Burns