The lads from Ireland were a sight Friday night as they all beamingly took their victory gallops at Ullevi Stadium Friday night following their European Championship victory. They’ve overcome a heap of problems, curses, and strange seasons to strike at the perfect moment and take one of the sport’s most prestigious prizes.
With Bertram Allen opting not to start after a frightening fall from Hector the previous day, the Irish Team would have no drop score, putting the weight heavily on Shane Sweetnam, Cian O’Connor and Denis Lynch to have the best rounds of their careers.
Right away the window for glory started to open when the Swedes — leading after two rounds of competition — added a time fault from Henrick von Eckermann, and then saw a shocking retirement for Malin Baryard-Johnsson. This put the pressure on Douglas Lindelow and Zacramento, who unfortunately would have two rails and a time fault to drop Sweden out of the gold medal spot.
With Shane Sweetnam and Chaqui Z leading off with a spectacular clear and setting up a momentous game plan for victory, Denis Lynch moved the chess pieces forward right after him aboard the veteran stallion All Star 5.
By the time Cian O’Connor came in the ring, he knew he had a rail in hand to win it, but was deadset on bringing home a zero. Good Luck gleamed under the lights and took every moment in stride, with Cian grinning ear to ear as they took the last fence and Swedish fans erupting with joy for the boys of the emerald isle.
“Our three stallions are all very brave and scopey, and the lights nearly helped them,” said Cian on how they achieved the win. “We were quietly confident that we could do the business, and obviously Shane (Chaqui Z) had a really tough job going first… I was outside warming up when Denis (All Star) jumped clear and I thought – I have to match that now! I don’t even remember the round, it was all kind of a blur. But I do remember going through the finish!”
Peder Fredricson went on to put in a clutch clear round for Sweden to keep them in the silver medal spot in front of their home crowd – an enormous achievement for the Nordic team.
Switzerland found only one clear round in Martin Fuchs and Clooney today, but they scraped by Belgium to take the bronze by less than a penalty point.
Germany found themselves out of the running in fifth, and the Netherlands had a redemptive day after two dismal early rounds of competition to ultimately finish sixth.
Team Gold is no doubt equally as sweet for Chef d’Equipe Rodrigo Pessoa, who was hired by Ireland specifically to overcome several years of bizarrely unsatisfactory team results despite the shocking stream of talented horses and riders at Ireland’s disposal. Whatever he’s doing seems to be working.
“We had a good dinner last night, we got together and we said we’ll keep fighting for this,” said Denis after the win. “As you know the Irish are always better as underdogs, and we proved that, so we are very happy to be here now!”
Rodrigo echoed the sentiments that the Irish seem to love battling from behind, and Friday he focused that energy into winning rounds.
“We had this goal since the beginning of the year and our road was a little bit bumpy. We had some things that happened during the year and this week too, but we stuck together, we said we win together or we lose together and they showed a lot of determination and strength today, and I’m really proud of them for sure!”
Just one fence separates the top five going into the individual championship.