Ireland have been crowned the European champions following an exhilarating team final in Gothenburg tonight (Friday, 25 August).
Within the electric atmosphere of the Ullevi Stadium, the Irish team swept to a euphoric triumph, claiming the gold medal despite being one man down.
Rodrigo Pessoa’s dream team pulled three clear rounds out of the bag, thanks to Shane Sweetnam (Chaqui Z), Denis Lynch (All Star 5) and Cian O’Connor (Good Luck).
The nation last picked up a gold medal at these championships in 2001, however, the team have been revitalised since being under the wing of new manager Rodrigo — described by Cian as “an extraordinary guy”.
Their fourth rider Bertram Allen made the decision to withdraw Hector Van D’Abdijhoev yesterday following a fall in the first team leg.
The trio went into the final team day in joint bronze position with Belgium, but after clear rounds from both trailblazer Shane (pictured, below) and then Denis, the Irish team swiftly moved up the leader board and held silver behind the home nation Sweden.
Faults picked up by overnight runners-up Switzerland dropped them down to bronze and when Sweden’s third rider Douglas Lindelöw had two down, plus a time-penalty, Ireland was propelled to the top of the leader board.
It was then down to Ireland’s final rider Cian to keep his team in the top spot and the pressure was well and truly on.
However, Cian is the ultimate cool-headed professional and nerves do not feature in his vocabulary.
His talented mount Good Luck jumped out of his skin and there was no doubt he’d touch a thing.
“We thought the lights tonight in the stadium might actually be to our advantage, it was spooky in there and we thought it might catch out some horses, but we have three brave stallions, who are all so scopey,” said Cian.
“When you’re sitting on a horse like Good Luck, it makes it a little bit easier — he’s an extraordinary animal. I don’t even remember my round, it was all a bit of a blur, however I remember going through the finish!”
The team’s trailblazer Shane added: “Things didn’t go perfectly each day and it has been stressful but last night we got together and said we’d keep fighting for it and the Irish always perform well as underdogs — we proved that tonight.
“Chaqui was brilliant and he gave me everything — he’s jumped fantastic three days in a row now. He was a bit surprised with 14 fences in there, it was a lot and was a tough course.”
Sweden settled for the silver medal, having held onto gold throughout the team competition. It was down to their final rider Peder Fredricson to maintain the team silver medal and the experienced rider did that with ease aboard H&M All In.
The Swede has now produced an impressive treble of clear rounds during the week and is sitting in the individual gold medal position going into Sunday’s final.
Germany’s Martin Fuchs is now in silver and Shane Sweetnam is in bronze.
After producing two brilliant clears on previous days aboard Utamaro D’Ecaussines, Britain’s solo rider William Whitaker was disappointed with two fences down today, which sees him drop down the leader board from 17th to 26th. It is therefore in doubt, whether William will make the top 25 heading into Sunday’s individual final, pending a horse inspection tomorrow (Saturday, 26 August).
“It was a tough course and it was the first time we’ve jumped under the lights here,” he said. “He jumped really good again – I’m not sure if he spooked a bit at fence three, but when we knocked it, it just broke my stride a bit. But after, he jumped everything really well.”
Final team standings:
Check out all the results from the 2017 European Championships here.
More from the Europeans…
The team currently hold joint third but will go into tomorrow's team final fielding three riders
The Irish quartet share bronze after today's first team leg, despite one of their riders taking a tumble
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