Though sharing the lead at the halfway point, and despite anchorman Cian O’Connor delivering two clear jumping rounds, Ireland failed to claim the Aga Khan trophy at the Nations Cup in Dublin today.
A strong American quartet was level with the home team on a zero score after the first round, where the Irish effort saw clear rounds from Bertram Allen and Molly Malone, Denis Lynch and RMF Echo and Cian O’Connor on Good Luck, with the discard score going to Aga Khan debutant Mark McAuley and Miebello on just four faults.
However, things started to go wrong for Ireland in the second round, with Bertram Allen coming home with four faults, McAuley collecting 12, and Lynch picking up an uncharacteristic 13 penalties. Only O’Connor and Good Luck stayed consistent, producing another clear jumping round, but with one time fault added.
The aggregate score of 17 penalties left Ireland in fifth, one point behind Spain, with the USA romping home on zero, followed by France on five faults, and the Netherlands on seven. This was the first time the trophy had been won in Dublin by an all-female team.
Speaking afterwards, the USA’s 21 year-old team member Lillie Keenan spoke of how honoured she was to be competing in Dublin for first time.
“I had a really exciting day and that’s an understatement…there’s no other feeling like winning a Nations Cup for your country and to win in Dublin makes it extra special,” said the Cian O’Connor -trained Harvard University student. “Competing in Dublin and having a result like this has been a goal since I first started working with him [Cian],” she said.
Commenting on the win, USA team manager Robert Ridland said: “It’s our view that the Aga Khan is the greatest trophy in our sport. At the beginning of the year we set out to bring our A team to this Show. Today, there was no luck, those four riders [team USA] did an unbelievable job.”
Ireland’s new chef d’equipe Rodrigo Pessoa said after the competition was finished: “It was a tough day. We put ourselves in contention after the first round, which was the minimum we could do, but the second round just didn’t work out for us at all. We had an unlucky rail down from Bertram and then two bad rounds in the middle, for multiple reasons, which took us completely out of the hunt.
“We took a gamble here with two horses that weren’t first-line horses, and it didn’t pay out for us. We will have to learn from our mistakes and move on now, to the Europeans in two weeks’ time, which has been our goal.”
Despite the fifth place finish today, Ireland has enough league points to go forward to the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona in September.