Irish show jumping in turmoil

  • In the latest twist of the Irish show jumping saga, Olympic team trainer Eddie Macken, who was sacked last week at the instigation of the selectors, has been invited back, not only as team trainer, but also as chef d’equipe.

    Macken was sacked as Olympic team trainer last week at a behind-closed-doors meeting of the selectors. The meeting was called to review Ireland’s performance in the Nations Cup series.

    Macken was not invited to the meeting, and although the official reason given for “dispensing with his services” was Ireland’s poor performance in the Samsung Super League series, a perceived disharmony between Macken and current chef d’equipe Tommy Wade is said to be at the root of the problem.

    Peter Leonard, tnternational affairs committee chairman, explained after the meeting: “While some riders have performed well as individuals in competition, it is the performance of the team as a whole that caused us grave concern.

    “There has obviously been a clash of personalities within the camp, and a marked drop in team morale,” he added.

    Following the selectors’ decision, seven of the Olympic long-listed riders (including four of the short-listed riders) wrote a letter to the Show Jumping Association of Ireland (SJAI) demanding the reinstatement of Macken as team trainer. Macken himself also issued a letter through his solicitors threatening to sue the SJAI.

    The matter came to a head at the SJAI AGM yesterday evening, when members voted “to instruct the board of directors to seek the appointment of Eddie Macken as the chef d’equipe and trainer of the Irish senior show jumping team.”

    This has yet to be ratified by the Equestrian Federation of Ireland (EFI), the Irish Sports Council and the Olympic Council of Ireland, although it is unlikely that there will be any opposition, as an EFI spokesman explained: “If there is a problem, which there obviously was, it is better to fix it now than to let it fester, which could have caused much greater problems nearer the Olympics. The athletes are supremely important and it is they that must be kept happy.”

    The latest development means, in effect, that the board of selectors will be disbanded, and Tommy Wade will lose his position as chef d’equipe. Wade will be replaced by Eddie Macken after the Nations Cup at Rotterdam this weekend.

  • For details see Horse & Hound 17 June issue (out tomorrow)
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