Irish eventing hopes

Jane Thompson previews the Irish eventing squad aiming for the Rio Olympics in August

We’ve all been amazed at the skill of young show jumper, Bertram Allen (20), and his younger brother Harry (13) is also a rising star. But did you know about the boy wonder of Irish eventing who has just been included in the squad for the Rio Olympics?

Cathal Daniels is the talk of Irish eventing at just 19. Photo thanks to Radka Preislerova
Cathal Daniels is the talk of Irish eventing at just 19. (Image: Radka Preislerova)

Cathal Daniels is just 19 but already has a history of collecting medals, albeit at Pony and Junior championship level. He has recently stepped up to the big time, posting a clear cross-country as part of the Irish team when they won the Nations Cup at Boekelo, ahead of the New Zealanders who gained their Olympic qualification at this event. Ireland had already gained Olympic qualification through their sixth placing at the World Equestrian Games in France, 2014.

Cathal, who is from Galway, has been the talk of Irish eventing for some time, especially after winning both individual and team gold medals at the 2012 Pony European Eventing Championships in Fontainebleau, riding Master Murrose. In 2013 on Rioghan Rua he won the 2013 CNCJ2* class at Tattersalls, and was in the team that won gold at the European Junior Eventing Championships in France. He won another team gold medal and individual silver at the 2014 FEI Junior European Championships in England.

Cathal is yet another rider who began his riding career at pony club, the Tynagh Pony Club. He is certainly one to look out for, and his inclusion in the squad on Rioghan Rua shows that the Irish selectors are confident he is ready for the challenge of riding at the highest of levels.

Austin O'Connor on Kilpatrick Knight
Austin O’Connor on Kilpatrick Knight

Austin O’Connor has been named with two horses, Balham Houdini and Kilpatrick Knight. He is no stranger to Olympics or national representation, having been in the senior team five times and competed at Sydney and Beijing Olympics. Austin is now based in England but is a regular competitor in Ireland.

Joseph Murphy with Electric Cruise
Joseph Murphy with Electric Cruise

Joseph Murphy has also been named in the squad with two horses, Westwinds Hercules and Sportsfield Othello. He impressed many at the London Olympics, being one of the few that jumped two clear rounds in the show jumping phase. Riding Electric Cruise, he finished in 14th place overall. Joseph and his identical twin brother Ciaran were infamous in their local hunt as they would always be on the lookout for catch rides. One of the boys would hunt in the morning while the other followed on foot, and they would meet up later to swap!

Aoife Clarke on Wasting Light
Aoife Clarke on Wasting Light

Aoife Clark is another with considerable experience, having competed at various 4* events as well as the London Olympics in 2012 where she finished seventh. Aoife (34) rode New Zealand-bred Vaguely North at 4* level but is named on this squad with Fernhill Adventure and Wasting Light. She has an honours degree in maths and classics.

Clare Abbott and Euro Prince have completed Badminton twice but their best 4* result was at Pau 2015 where they finished ninth, earning them a place in the squad. She competed in WEG 2014 as an individual, but was one of the many who did not complete the cross-country after refusals. The 29-year-old names her hero as Andrew Nicholson and has worked as a part-time maths teacher in addition to producing young horses.

Sam Watson and Horseware Lukeswell
Sam Watson and Horseware Lukeswell

Sam Watson and Horseware Lukeswell have also earned a slot from their recent performances. He’s completed Badminton four times, with his best placing being 13th on a horse bred by his family, Horseware Bushman. Sam’s father John was a very accomplished eventer as well, winning an individual silver at the 1978 World Championships in Kentucky.  Sam was also a member of the WEG teams in 2014 and 2010. How Sam finds time to compete at the highest level is a mystery. He is one of the two partners in the exciting and innovative start-up company, Equi-ratings, and is the statistician with the maths brains behind the company which produces the most amazing trend and analysis reports for eventing. They have just launched a safety analysis tool which should prove very useful.

Jonty Evans on Cooley Rorkes Drift
Jonty Evans on Cooley Rorkes Drift

Jonty Evans is another Irish rider based in the UK.  He has been named in the squad on the lovely Irish horse, Cooley Rorkes Drift. Jonty has been around the eventing scene for years and has developed a lot of media skills. He is often found interviewing the various riders, providing thoughtful and fun questions whether it be part of the Burghley Celebrity Talk area or in front of the video camera for the Mark Todd Collection. He was part of the winning Nations Cup team in Boekelo, finishing eighth individually. He has completed many 4* events. Jonty also spent some time training with Andrew Nicholson earlier in his career.

Michael Ryan is another who has two horses named in the squad; Ballylynch Adventure and Dunlough Striker, both Irish-bred. Michael was part of the Irish team who finished fourth at the London Olympics. He is married to Patricia who competed for Ireland at both the Sydney and Beijing Olympics. Both have completed many 4* events with Michael being awarded an Armada Dish for five Badminton completions. Michael was named in the team to compete at Kentucky World Equestrian Games in 2010 but had to withdraw just prior to the event due to an injury to his horse.  He competed in WEG in 2006 in Aachen.

Mark Kyle on Loughton Pearl
Mark Kyle on Loughton Pearl

Mark Kyle finished 21st in both Olympic Games hecompeted at: London on Coolio and Athens on Drunken Disorderly. The 42-year-old has also been part of the Irish team at two World Equestrian Games: 1998 in Rome and 2010 in Kentucky. He has been named in this squad with his horse Jemilla, who he has had since she was a five-year-old. Mark has won medals in Junior and Young Rider European championships and both his parents also represented Ireland in eventing.

The final team will be announced after the Tattersalls three-day event in June.