SHOWJUMPING – IRELAND to pursue all avenues after interference costs them Rio place

The Investec Ireland showjumping team was pipped for an Olympic Games qualification spot in controversial circumstances in the final round of the team competition at the European Championships in Aachen, Germany.

By Francis W. Mulvihill

Irish team winning at Dublin Horse Show. Photo Therese Alhaug
Irish team winning at Dublin Horse Show. Photo Therese Alhaug

The Irish team came within 0.38 faults of securing one of the three Olympic qualifying slots available at the final of the European Jumping Championships in Aachen, Germany. With five of the ten teams who qualified for the final from 22 starters chasing the three Rio slots, Ireland finished fourth in this category and took seventh spot in the overall European team ranking.
However, controversially, Ireland’s third rider Cian O’Connor and his nine year-old stallion Good Luck were on course to repeat their clear round from the previous day when a member of the Aachen arena staff inexplicably crossed their tracks on the approach to the final sequence of fences. O’Connor unexpectedly had the next fence down. Irish team officials lodged an appeal with the Aachen ground jury over the incident, and then with the Appeals Committee at Aachen, but without success.
The four penalties attributed to O’Connor were the difference between securing the third Rio qualifying spot, as Ireland lost out by less than half a penalty to Spain. O’ Connor was annoyed as he left the arena and explained later that he had intended taking a wider route to the next fence which was on a corner. Team Ireland are in no doubt that the rhythm and concentration of both horse and rider were impeded.
Speaking after the competition Damian McDonald, Horse Sport Ireland CEO said: “We are very proud of the Irish team’s performance at the European Championships in Aachen. As regards the incident where an arena official crossed Cian O’Connor and his horse Good Luck’s tracks causing interference, we will be examining all of our options provided for within the rules of the International Governing Body the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) including a potential appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)”
Horse Sport Ireland chairman, Dr. Pat Wall, told Equilife World that the governing body would leave no stone unturned. “It is our intention to appeal to the FEI and, if required, the Court of Arbitration fro Sport (CAS). Our horse and rider did not have the same experience as the other competitors and we feel that due process wasn’t given to our athletes. The nation would expect us to appeal it”

THE Swiss-based world governing body for equestrian sport, the FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale), issued a statement regarding the incident at the European Championships at Aachen where a member of the ground staff ran in front of Irish combination Cian O’Connor and Good Luck during their final round. The Irish rider unexpectedly had the next fence down. Irish team officials lodged an appeal with the Aachen ground jury over the incident, and then with the Appeals Committee at Aachen, but without success.

The FEI statement reads:

“Following an on-course incident in which a member of the arena fence crew ran across the track as Irish rider Cian O’Connor was turning towards the 11th fence during the team Final at the FEI European Jumping Championships 2015 in Aachen (GER), the Irish chef d’equipe Robert Splaine and athlete Cian O’Connor lodged a protest. The horse Good Luck hit the fence to complete the course on four faults.

“The protest was heard by the Ground Jury, who ruled that as the athlete had continued his round, they saw no reason to stop him by ringing the bell. Under Article 233.3 of the FEI Jumping Rules, the athlete had the opportunity to stop voluntarily due to unforeseen circumstances beyond his control, however he did not do so.

“The Ground Jury heard explanations from Robert Splaine and Cian O’Connor, reviewed video footage of the incident, and ruled that the result would stand.

“Having been notified of the Ground Jury’s decision, the Irish chef d’equipe and the athlete promptly appealed the decision to the Appeal Committee. However, after a further full review of the incident, including hearing statements from all parties, the Appeal Committee ruled that the athlete had been given a full and complete right to be heard and stated that it would not overrule the Ground Jury on a field of play decision. As a result, the Appeal Committee rejected the appeal and upheld the Ground Jury decision.

“The decision means that the Irish team score of 25.960 penalties remains unchanged, leaving the Irish in seventh overall, with the qualifying slots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games going to Switzerland (3rd), Great Britain (4th) and Spain (6th).”

Horse Sport Ireland’s position on the incident remains unchanged despite this statement.

Frank Mulvihill
Frank Mulvihill


Frank is a breeder and producer of sport horses. His son Seán has competed at show jumping up to 1.50m level. With a background in Equine Science and holding a coaching qualification he has a deep understanding of the horse and rider. He has a keen interest in equine genetics, equine history and the evolution of equestrian sport, and has been involved in equestrian print and broadcasting for almost 20 years.

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