With most Nations Cup Finals delivering upsets over the years it came as little shock in Barcelona tonight to discover that favourites Germany, Great Britain and the United States were amongst the seven who failed to qualify for Sunday’s final round – but it was reassuring for Ireland to find themselves in sixth place at the end of the contest, well within the eight-team elite group that proceeds towards the 2018 Nations Cup trophy shoot-out.

As one might expect from teams of this calibre, very little separated the top eight in the scoring, and this will make Sunday’s clash all the more intriguing.

Austria and Italy shared the top of tonight’s qualifying list with a team total of one time fault apiece, while Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands recorded four faults each, with Ireland finishing on five. Switzerland and France made up the final tally, with eight faults each.

Ireland’s two clear jumping rounds came from Anthony Condon and Aristio (who also racked up the team’s one time fault) and last-man-in Darragh Kenny with Balou du Reventon. Billy Twomey opened the team score with a single fence down, while Shane Breen and Ipswich van de Wolfsakker ended up as the 12-fault discard score.

Kenny said afterwards: “Our goal was to get into Sunday, that was the most important thing for us, so we were very happy we did that. We have a great team and we’re all working really well together so I think we should do well. We’ll go out there trying to do our best and see what happens, that’s for sure!”

The Nations Cup Final, sponsored by Longines, boasts a compelling €1.25 million prize pot, and the excitement of the final day may help lift the FEI series into a spotlight that has been somewhat overshadowed this year and last by the super-rich Global Champions Tour, ironically also sponsored by Longines.

Popularity of the the Global Champions Tour may in part be due to the fact that it puts high-definition livestream coverage of all its shows online at no cost to the viewer, while on the other hand the FEI charges a subscription to view the Nations Cup series.

Many observers regard this as a counter-intuitive move by the world governing body, part of whose mandate is to promote the sport globally, and who may now be underestimating the influence of instant online viewing as opposed to terrestrial tv viewing in attracting fans and supporters.

Meanwhile in Barcelona the Germans and Americans will join Canada, Great Britain, Brazil, the UAE and host nation of Spain in Saturday night’s Challenge Cup for those that didn’t make it through to the Nations Cup final.

-Colin McClelland

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