Ireland show jumpers will compete at five European venues for this year’s FEI Nations’ Cup series, now sponsored by Longines.
The shows will be:
Samorin, Slovakia – Sunday April 29
La Baule, France – Sunday May 20
Falsterbo, Sweden – Sunday July 15
Hickstead, United Kingdom – Sunday July 29
Dublin, Ireland – Friday August 10
Though Ireland has the option of fielding teams for other Nations Cup shows, these five will be the country’s European Division 1 points-scoring competitions. The series will determine which seven teams will qualify for the Nations Cup final at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain in October, where up to 20 of the world’s best teams will go head-to-head.
In the European series the Netherlands, who won in 2017, will be joined by Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden, along with Belgium and Great Britain – the two top finishing teams in Division 2 last year.
As was the case throughout 2017, Ireland’s team manager for the series will be the experienced Brazilian rider Rodrigo Pessoa, with the governing body, Horse Sport Ireland, again relying on international coach Gerry Mullins to head up its high performance committee to oversee selections for the Irish teams.
The Aga Khan competition at Dublin will feature the host nation as well as the Netherlands, Italy, France, Great Britain and Switzerland, from amongst the European teams.
With only Dublin retaining the traditional Friday slot for its Aga Khan trophy, all other Nations Cup venues this year move to a Sunday slot to facilitate television coverage.
As usual, Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE is expected to give full coverage to the Nations Cup competition at the RDS, but doubt remains as to whether any of Ireland’s other European competitions will be featured on television in Ireland.
At the beginning of 2017, the governing body Horse Sport Ireland said that it had plans to “hopefully bring footage from both major FEI Nations Cup competitions as well as the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, where so many Irish riders compete with great success, to Irish television screens”, but it would appear that those plans did not bear fruit.
The second Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida is currently in full swing without any apparent interest from the national broadcaster – for a second year since HSI’s statement – and no announcement has been forthcoming about the hoped-for television agreement with the FEI regarding the Nations Cup series.
RTE did feature a brief news clip of Ireland’s historic capture of the European Championship crown at Gothenburg last August after a 16 year gap, but no other coverage was given to this major event until four months later when Denis Lynch, Shane Sweetnam, Cian O’Connor and Bertram Allen won RTE’s Sports Team of the Year award.
It is therefore reasonable to deduce that interest in show jumping by the national broadcaster remains lower than it did ten years ago, when news about the sport was more regularly featured on Irish tv screens.
After failing to qualify a show jumping team for the Olympics on our last three attempts, Irish hopes will now rest on Pessoa’s squad repeating their European championships performance at the World Equestrian Games at Tryon in the US in September to guarantee a slot for Tokyo in 2020.
Whether such an achievement will be enough for RTE to clear any space for show jumping in its tv schedules remains unclear.