Spotlight falls on Irish SJ team selection

  • Constructive talks between the Show Jumping Association of Ireland (SJAI) and the nation’s top riders have helped clear the air in the aftermath of a bitter row that erupted at this year’s Dublin Horse Show.

    Robert Joyce, SJAI director general, told Horse & Hound that investigations were now under way into accusations that rider Cian O’Connor “meddled” in the team selection for the Nations Cup, allegedly influencing chef d’equipe Eamonn Rice.

    The accusations, categorically refuted by O’Connor and Rice, were publicly aired by senior rider Harry Marshall, who, at the time, pledged to boycott any Nations Cup team that included O’Connor “under the current selection regime”, which he claimed was “a little bit corrupt”.

    The furore was further heightened by the shock 7 August resignations of SJAI international affairs committee riders’ representative Tom Slattery and Leinster representative Liam Buckley, who echoed Marshall’s concerns.

    At the heart of the dispute were allegations that O’Connor told Rice (in Slattery’s presence) that he would not jump if Irish Army Captain Shane Carey was not on the Dublin team.

    A spokesman for O’Connor declined to comment “at this stage”. Marshall, meanwhile, said he was unaware that the SJAI had launched an investigation into the matter, adding he would be “delighted” if it were true.

    Marshall said the accusations he raised against O’Connor in no way reflected “sour grapes” on his behalf, adding: “If Eamonn Rice had told me that I was not on the team from the start, there would be no need for an investigation. ”

    Joyce said results of the joint SJAI/Equestrian Federation of Ireland (EFI) investigation would only be made public “if suitable”. He said a decision had been made not to release full details of what was said during a 30 August trouble-shooting meeting in order for participants to speak freely and voice concerns over issues they felt were important.

    The 30 August meeting, hosted by the Show Jumpers’ Club and attended by senior riders and representatives of the SJAI and EFI, primarily focused on widespread discontent about how national teams were selected.

    Show Jumpers’ Club spokesman David Darragh said the meeting was highly constructive and had “gone a long way to developing a blueprint as to how future selection criteria can be met.”

    “We have to move with the times,” said Darragh. “The current structures have been in place for many decades and they are not suitable for the modern times.”

    Running parallel to the talks, Joyce said an internal review had been launched this month, in conjunction with the EFI, to look at the ways structures and procedures within the SJAI’s selection procedures could be improved.

    • Read this news article in full in the current issue of Horse & Hound (13 October, ’05)

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