A triumphant Dutch team lifted the trophy in the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday (3 October) for a record third time. But it couldn’t have been a closer finish, with defending champions Ireland riding their hearts out to finish runners up on a team total of just one penalty.
Three members of the Dutch quartet produced clears in Sunday afternoon’s electric conclusion to the series – Olympic bronze medallist Maikel van der Vleuten (Beauville Z), Willem Greve with 17-year-old Carambole and anchorman Harrie Smolders sealed his nation’s victory with a crucial clear on Monaco after Sanne Thijssen produced the discard score of four on Con Quidam RB.
“Nothing beats winning with your nation in a Nations Cup,” said Willem.
Ireland, who lifted the Nations Cup Final in 2019 amidst jubilant scenes when they also secured their Olympic qualification, came agonisingly close to defending their title. Denis Lynch (Cristello) and Darragh Kenny (VDL Cartello) jumped clear with the country’s European Championship hero Eoin McMahon just succumbing to a time-fault with Madeleine Winter-Schulze’s Chacon 2. But with Michael Duffy’s four-fault round on Zilton SL Z becoming the discard score, the team total of one meant they just lost out to the triumphant Dutch squad.
“We were only 0.21sec away from a jump-off,” said a slightly deflated Eoin McMahon. “But I’m thrilled with the horse. Being a fraction over the time proved costly, but I can’t fault the horse – it was the slow rider!
“We were confident coming here with five good riders, we tried our best and just came up a tiny, tiny bit short. When you come so close, it’s a bit disappointing. But it’s been a great year and the horse has been a superstar for me all year. He doesn’t let me down.”
Anchorman Darragh Kenny, one of the riders to earn a share of the double clear bonus at the show, admitted to feeling the pressure going in.
“I’m sweating!” he said. “I just knew to have any chance of winning I had to be clear and inside the time allowed. But the horse feels amazing, he’s jumping out of his skin. On Friday he felt fantastic and again today he just got better and better as the round went and I actually started to relax more and left him alone as he was flying. The team really pulled together, the lads were fantastic and it was a great result – the Dutch were just brilliant. You needed a horse that was rideable round there.
“But overall we had great team spirit and it was a very good result.”
Belgium took third ahead of Sweden in fourth – both on four-faults but with the former producing a faster accumulative time. Leaders on day one, Germany, could only manage a fifth-placed finish ahead of USA, with host nation Spain in seventh and Brazil taking eighth.