Ireland’s new show jumping manager, the multi-medalled Rodrigo Pessoa, today announced his selected squad to contest the country’s first points-scoring Nations Cup of the 2017 season at La Baule on May 12th.

And in an answer to a question posed by We Live Horse at today’s press conference in the National Sports Campus at Blanchardstown, Co. Dublin, he also categorically stated that he would never give in to pressure to select an Irish-bred horse over a more talented foreign-bred one.

The 44 year-old authoritatively fielded a barrage of questions from the assembled press corps, and did much to reassure the audience that his own riding career would not in any way interfere with his commitment to the Irish team, which he described as “one hundred per cent”.

Pessoa said he had been “pleasantly surprised” by the welcome accorded him by the Irish riders, but warned that “we are not going to have only sunny days – we are going to have some difficult moments”.

The new manager also paid tribute to the achievements of individual Irish riders globally, but added: “They have under-performed in championships, dramatically, which is not good. That’s why I’m here to try and help them solve that problem. Ireland has great riders and great horses and they have sometimes won Nations Cups. But the last time they were on a (championship) podium was in 2001, which is a long time ago.

“That’s what we have to change here. Riders want change as well and knew it was time to change and I hope we can put everything together, as a group.”

We Live Horse asked Pessoa if he felt that he would be under any pressure to give preference to the selection of Irish-bred horses over foreign ones, knowing that the sport’s governing body in Ireland seemed inextricably linked with the breeding industry.

He replied. “No. It was clear in my interview for this job that my hands need to be free to decide what horses I select. At the end I will take full responsibility and blame nobody but me if things go wrong. If we have a great Irish horse he’ll be on the team and there won’t be pressure from anywhere. I’ll be the first one to put him on the team but he will have to be a real Irish horse, a really good one.”

Pessoa’s Irish La Baule Nations Cup squad, this year sponsored by Devenish and The Underwriting Exchange, will be as follows:

Kevin Babington with the 12 year-old mare Shorapur

Shane Breen with the 12-year-old stallion Golden Hawk

Galway’s Michael Duffy riding the 11-year-old gelding Belcanto Z

Denis Lynch with the 14-year-old stallion All Star

Colin McClelland

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