Ireland braced for final shot at Olympics berth
This is a vital week for Irish showjumping, when the five star Nations Cup team, selected by manager Rodrigo Pessoa, faces its last chance for Tokyo Olympic qualification in Spain.
Barcelona Polo Club hosts 18 nations from tomorrow until Sunday in the Longines FEI Nations Cup world final, which is also a qualifier for the Olympics - with only one final ticket to be jumped for.
The Ireland panel consists of Darragh Kenny on Balou du Reventon, Peter Moloney (Chianti's Chaplin), Cian O'Connor (PSG Final), Paul O'Shea (Skara Glen's Machu Picchu) and Shane Sweetnam with Alejandro.
Belfast company Devenish Nutrition is a co-sponsor of the Irish international squad with The Underwriting Exchange and will be represented at the Barcelona finals.
Olympian O'Connor explained: "Barcelona is our final opportunity to qualify for Tokyo 2020. We have a very strong squad and we are hopeful that we can not only qualify but also take a Nation's Cup medal."
Chairman of the High Performance committee for showjumping, Gerry Mullins, added: "We have five very good guys going, we are up against it, there is strong opposition. I am looking forward to it, everyone in the sport is watching this week. The riders have to perform up to their max, we have a chance and it will be top end sport. The team has to go well to be in with a chance."
Team Manager Pessoa said: "We are among a group of teams fighting for a spot in Tokyo and, needless to say, we are taking this extremely seriously. We are very aware of the competition that we are up against and the riders are ready to tackle the importance of the event."
Seven of the 18 competing teams hope to claim the one Olympic team qualifying place. Ireland is in a battle with Norway, Portugal, Italy, Colombia, Egypt and Spain for the coveted ticket with Italy predicted to be a strong challenger.
The eight best teams in tomorrow's qualifier go through to Sunday's final.
So far, Ireland's eventing and dressage teams have already qualified for Tokyo.