Grassroots talent key to European medal success
Irish equestrian European medal winning team managers Becky Cullen, from Gilford, and Ballyclare's Gary Marshall have praised the grassroots of equine sports in Ireland at the Horse Sport Ireland 2019 European and World medal winners awards in Naas.
Crossmaglen's former European showjumping champion and Olympian James Kernan, manager of the juniors and young riders, also praised the wealth of talent leading to major championship medals in Europe this year.
Kernan, who competed in the Olympics in 1992, said: "I am delighted our dressage, eventing and showjumping teams are off to Tokyo for the Olympics next summer. I remember competing in the Barcelona and it is a wonderful experience. I know all our riders will love Tokyo."
Horse Sport Ireland CEO Ronan Murphy welcomed the three Olympic qualified teams, and other medal winners to the reception in Kildare, where the rebranded HSI and uniformed seniors and pony riders received awards.
Marshall's European gold medal pony team which incuded John McEntee, Banbridge, and Niamh McEvoy, from Omagh, is already putting forward his 2020 plan.
"It was a fantastic year," said Gary (below). "We had a plan and and it brought the result in Poland. I picked my team from a trial in Nations Cups, the riders took their shot and took it well. I have my 2020 plan sorted and hopefully we have another good selection and go from there"
John McEntee, who won the FEI pony trophy two weeks ago in Stuttgart, added: "It was unbelievable to win the gold in Poland and to be invited here, showing people care to give us such a great celebration."
Ballymena's Harry Agnew, co-owner of Paul O'Shea's horse Macchu Picchu, which was part of the Nations Cup winning team in Barcelona this year, was also in attendance and said: "Paul O'Shea did all the hard work with the horse and managed the horse so well over the past year. It was very exciting in Barcelona, maybe a bit stressful too. We walked the track before the competition, that makes you more nervous when you see the size of the fences."
With all systems go for Tokyo, HSI's Triona Connors is already planning the logistics of flying the horses and riders next summer.