GAP of the North Riding Club, who were the wildcard entry, won the AIRC Team Show Jumping Championship final at the Dublin Horse Show last Sunday after they were the only team to complete the competition on a clean sheet.
It all came down to the final competitor in the Simmonscourt arena as their captain, Tom Hogan, had a fence in hand going into his final round. The Abbeyleix resident however withstood the pressure on the 18-year-old bay gelding, Limmerick Jewel, as he crossed the line inside the time with all fences intact to give the Armagh-based club the coveted championship trophy.
The win was all the more special for the team of Eamon McGuirk (Friar Walk), Patrick Murphy (Lismon De Reve Cream), Kate Kenwright (Templemaley Captain) and Tom Hogan (Limmerick Jewel) as they came through the wildcard qualifier at the AIRC Riding Clubs Festival in June where the runners-up of each of the regional qualifiers were given a second chance to qualify for Sunday’s final.
Over 100 teams sought qualification earlier in the year with the top nine teams going forward to the final where only seven riders managed to produce a double-clear round.
Raul Suarez’s 11-fence track with 13 jumping efforts proved challenging with penalties spread out around the course.
After the opening round, Gap of the North were out in front on zero with five teams further behind on four penalties including Benbulben, Castle Hill, Greenhills, Lismore and Mill Road. Carrickmines was next best on six penalties while Headfort and Tinahely were further back.
Headfort, who were making their first outing at the RDS, and Tinahely had too much ground to cover and remained out of contention after the second round while Mill Road dropped out of the top six after they added 12 penalties to finish on a total of 16.
They can take solace from the fact that it was an improved performance on their last outing in 2017.
The Benbulben, Castle Hill and Lismore teams all added eight penalties in the second round to finish on 12 penalties each leaving the clock to decide the ribbons. The Lismore club, who was making their first appearance at the RDS, took sixth place with a time of 200.12. Just over a second separated the next two teams with Castle Hill getting the nod in a time of 190.83 to claim fourth place ahead of Benbulben in fifth on 191.98.
There was a remarkable second-round performance from the South Dublin-based Carrickmines Riding Club who moved up the leader board from seventh place after the opening round to finish on the podium in third place. The team of Martina Delaney (Branraduff Bob), Rory O’Keeffe (Shes The Model), Sadhbh Mullins (Delta De Reve) and Selina Ann Osborne (RTS Lisa) finished on a total of 10 penalties after adding another four in the second round.
Greenhills, who were making their 10th appearance in a final since 2002, were left in second place for the second successive final after they lost out after a two-way jump-off to Mosstown in the 2019 final when it last took place.
The Kildare team of Jane Fallon (Beachball Sally), Lesley McKenna (Lincoln Lane), Grainne Alexander (Cheeky Blonde) and Roland Dalton (Mrs Maggie) ended on eight penalties after they added a further four in the second round. They also picked up the best turned out rosettes after they impressed the judges during the parade of teams earlier.