Irish equestrian athletes were honoured on Thursday at a reception hosted by Horse Sport Ireland at the Druids Glen Hotel in Co Wicklow.
In 2018, Irish riders won 12 World and European championship medals at senior and youth levels, the highlight being the eventing team’s silver medal-winning performance at the World Equestrian Games at Tryon, North Carolina in September which also secured Olympic qualification.
All team members, Cathal Daniels, Sam Watson, Sarah Ennis and Padraig McCarthy, were present to receive specially commissioned trophies along with team manager Sally Corscadden, jumping coach Ian Fearon and veterinary surgeon Marcus Swail. Dressage coach Ian Woodhead, who, with Corscadden and Fearon, was announced as coach of the year, was unable to attend.
McCarthy, who also won individual silver on the British-bred Mr Chunky, was accompanied to the function by the three of the gelding’s owners, Huw Lloyd and Sarita and Christopher Perkins as the team horse owners were also honoured at the reception. Devon-based Tipperary native McCarthy, whose wife Lucy is also a part-owner of Mr Chunky, will be back in Ireland next month as he is on the panel of speakers at HSI’s international breeding conference in Kildare.
It was also a memorable year for Irish show jumping as Irish horses and riders dominated the five-year-old division of September’s World championships for young horses at Lanaken, Belgium. Sligo’s Richard Howley won gold on Uppercourt Cappucino with silver going to Darragh Ryan on CSF Sir George and the bronze to Mikey Pender with HHS Vancouver.
At youth level, Irish riders claimed seven team and individual medals at the Longines FEI European Championships.
Managed by James Kernan, the Under-14 show jumping squad of Sarah Fitzgerald, Rhys Williams, Lucy Morton, Ciaran Foley and Isobel Hughes-Kennedy, claimed European team silver, with Williams also claiming individual gold.
The Kernan-managed under 18 squad of Cian Harrison, Jason Foley, Harry Allen, Jack Ryan, Kate Derwin won team bronze at the Europeans where Foley also won individual gold. Tipperary’s Max Wachman claimed the silver medal at the European Pony Championships where Ireland narrowly missed out on team bronze.
The Irish pony eventing squad of Isabelle Comerford, Chloe Fagan, Holly Love, Harry Swan, and Sophie Foyle, led by team manager Becky Cullen, won European team silver, with individual silver also going to Foyle. All Irish youth teams were sponsored by GAIN horse feeds.
In his opening speech, Horse Sport Ireland CEO Ronan Murphy stated that, so far this year, almost 700 Irish equestrian athletes had represented Ireland at international competitions in over 30 different countries. He thanked the owners of all the horses and also Sport Ireland for its support and contribution to the high-performance programmes.
In a short closing address, HSI chairman Joe Reynolds said that the sport had “dream team” of riders and support staff. He noted in particular the number of young people who had won medals which was “extremely good for the future.”
Before welcoming all to Thursday’s reception, Ronan Murphy paid tribute to Harold McGahern, one of the driving forces behind Irish horse breeding and equestrian programmes who died suddenly on Monday and whose funeral takes place in Granard, Co Longford on Friday.