There wasn’t to be Aga Khan success for Ireland at the FEI Nations Cup held at the Dublin Horse Show at the RDS today – but having made his competition debut on home soil, it was a day Ardee man Mark McAuley won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
The all-female team from the United States were crowned winners of the Nations Cup Aga Khan Trophy in Dublin, beating France into second. The Dutch finished third with Spain in fourth. Ireland finished ahead of Switzerland, Italy and Great Britain.
McAuley, the 30-year-old showjumper from Millockstown just outside Ardee, finished round one with four faults with one fence down – a discarded score – and then his 12 faults in the second round contributed to Ireland’s total score of 16 and a fifth place finish overall.
His first round score was discarded after teammates Bertram Allen (Molly Malone), Denis Lynch (RMF Echo) and Cian O’Connor (Good Luck) all enjoyed clear rounds. That left Ireland level with the US team at the top of the leaderboard at the half way stage.
However, Ireland fell out of contention as they failed to replicate that strong showing the second time out in front of a capcity crowd at the RDS. Allen scored four faults before McAuley was out again. He and Miebello had three fences down – including the last – for 12 faults.
Denis Lynch followed that up with 13 faults as Ireland fell down the standings before Cian O’Connor finished his day with another superb round, being unfortunate to earn a time fault at the death. O’Connor’s second round saw the Irish finish with 17 faults for their efforts.
In fairness, many of the eight four-person teams struggled the second time around on the course. Course designer Tom Holden raised the tenth fence, one particular spot where many pairs failed to get the better of.
— Team IRL Equestrian (@TeamIRLEq) August 11, 2017
“We had two bad rounds in the middle for multiple reasons and that took us out of the race. We have to learn from out mistakes. We took a gamble here and it didn’t play off,” team manager Rodrido Pessoa told RTE Sport.
“The horse of Mark didn’t perform well in the second round. He looked tired and a little bit off,” Pessoa said.
The Ireland show jumping team had been aiming to add to the 23 Aga Khan trophies under their belt since the trophy was first awarded back in 1926. They came into the day considered the bookies favourite to do the business on home soil.
Mark, who is based out of Switzerland, and the 13-year-old gelding Miebello have only been paired together by chance but showed fine recent form going into the Aga Khan. The Ardee man only started to ride Miebello after girlfriend Charlotte Mordasini had a fall and was forced off the saddle for several months.
Since then, they have placed second in the CS14* Grand Prix in Bourg de Bresse before a win in Rome and then helping Ireland to joint-third in the Italian Nations Cup event. He the took fourth in the five star Italian Grand Prix, bagging €20,000 in prize money for his efforts. Miebello is owned by Eva Lundin.
Mark is a renowned showjumper locally, across Ireland and internationally too. His grandfather, Billy McKeever, was the Master of the Louth Hunt for many years and both his parents, John and Sarah, also rode to a high level on the international circuit.