Cian O’Connor: Grit, determination and team spirit *H&H subscribers*


  • I’m writing this the day after Team Ireland’s incredible victory in the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona, and the meaning of it all is just starting to sink in. What a feeling!

    Our performance as a group personified the meaning of grit, determination and perhaps something that has eluded us as a unit on other occasions — team spirit. The big question from everyone in the past has been — why do the Irish perform so well individually, but can’t seem to get it right on the team days?

    My theory is that the jumping calendar is action-packed with so many competitions on a weekly basis that the old days of building towards a huge goal are no longer, as people have a goal every week.

    It felt different in Barcelona. Every one of us knew we had a job to do and the expectations were high. The weight of the country was on our shoulders.

    It was nice to see that so many Irish people travelled to Barcelona to support the team in our quest for Olympic qualification. Not only did we qualify for Tokyo but we won the competition outright, which itself is a major feat as 18 countries lined up on day one, with eight making the cut for the final.

    ‘The pressure is off’

    Paul O’Shea, Peter Moloney, Darragh Kenny and I are thrilled to have secured an Irish team place for Tokyo 2020, and it somewhat takes the pressure off for a few months, then we can all plan our campaigns to peak at the right time next summer. Indeed, it offers hope and opportunity to other Irish riders who may have a horse coming through that could possibly aim for these Olympics.

    The strength in depth of the Irish talent is the envy of the equestrian world, and now we need to capitalise on that at home through investment in infrastructure and facilities in order to have the best training grounds for the next generation of horse and rider.

    The Olympics is something that has consumed my life for over 20 years. When I started, I somewhat cockily put on the side of my truck, “Working towards the summer Olympics 2004”. We went to that Olympic Games and we won it.

    History tells what happened next and it was a tough period in my life, but I battled to get to the London Olympics in 2012 and I won a bronze medal there, something I will have forever.

    Since then, we’ve struggled to qualify for the Games, so obviously it’s very emotional to be part of this great squad and to now have a chance to go to Tokyo.

    It gives a great impetus to other people to get behind the team, to get behind the Irish riders, to look for horses before the end of the year and possibly support them for the Olympics.

    The Olympics are the place to be and now we must start to plan how Team Ireland can win Olympic gold in Japan.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 17 October 2019