CATHAL DANIELS: The Olympic Dream is Alive and Well

  • 8 April 2020, 17:53

Cathal Daniels on the podium after winning individual bronze at the 2019 European Eventing Championships in Luhmühlen. (Photo by Oliver Hardt/Getty Images for FEI)

Cathal Daniels, member of Horse Sport Ireland’s high-performance eventing squad, says that the squad are fortunate to be in a good place mentally and that Team Ireland will be prepared when they get the green light

Twenty-three-year-old Cathal Daniels had an incredible 2019 season culminating with an individual bronze medal win at the European Eventing Championships in Luhmühlen, riding the Mags and Frank Kinsella-owned and bred Rioghan Rua (ISH).

2020 started out just as bright, with Cathal travelling to Barroca D’Alva in Portugal to kick-start his season. Dr Sarah Hughes’ Shannondale Percy (ISH) was in top form, jumping double clear in both the 3*S and 4*S, to finish fourth in the latter. Cathal and Shannondale Mari (ISH), also owned by Dr Sarah Hughes, made their partnership debut at Barroca winning the 2*S before then going on to finish 7th in the 2*L.  Cathal’s winning streak continued with the Michelle Nelson and Kieran Connors-owned OLS King Aragon (ISH) when the pair finished on their dressage score to win the 3*S, before going on to place third in the 4*L.

Cathal Daniels and the Dr Sarah Hughes-owned Shannondale Percy in action earlier this year at Barroca D’Alva (Photo: Irish Eventing Times)


Whilst there was lots of excitement and celebrations happening in Portugal, it was also a very exciting time for Cathal’s team at home who were looking forward to, and preparing for, an exciting yard move. However, the strength of Cathal’s team was never tested more than when they became aware that a country-wide lockdown was to be put in place due to the deteriorating situation relating to Covid-19.

The team had to work against the clock to get almost 40 horses moved before the Covid-19 lockdown came into effect. Looking back on it Cathal says: “It was an enormous team effort – returning from Portugal and having to move everything. We just managed to get the last horses moved into the new premises the day of the lockdown.”

Always an optimist, Cathal says: “The enforced lockdown has meant that we have had time to utilise all the facilities at Tully East which is situated on the Curragh with 40 stables, gallops and schooling strip, covered lunge pen, outdoor arena, turn out and the added bonus of a water treadmill, vita floor and solarium. The move has made it a little easier on all at the team to respect the rules and stay at home to save lives. We hope to have an open day and a celebration when it’s safe to do so.”

(L-R) Team Ireland Vet Marcus Swail, Equine Physio, Davide Focardi, European Bronze medallist Cathal Daniels, show jumping coach Grant Wilson, Dressage Coach Ian Woodhead, owner of Rioghan Rua Mags Kinsella, high-performance Director Sally Corscadden and athlete physio Claire-Maria Curry at the 2019 European Eventing Championships in Luhmühlen


In 2017, the Olympic Council of Ireland announced that Cathal was among 12 athletes to have been awarded an Olympic Solidarity Scholarships to assist with qualification and preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Despite his relatively young age, the only Championship medal Cathal hasn’t won is an Olympic medal.

As Cathal says himself: “The date has changed but my goal remains the same. My dream is to be an Olympic Medallist. That’s very much on my mind and Horse Sport Ireland, Sport Ireland, the high-performance management team and coaches – they have all been great and very proactive during this period of restriction to our routines. We have online access to our coaches, nutritionists and fitness team. We have also been given advice and assistance to deal with every eventuality and we are all fortunate to be in a good place mentally.

Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua in action at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, where they helped Team Ireland to silver medal success (Photo: Alison Green for Shannon Brinkman)

“With the Olympics now having been postponed it only means that we have been given longer to prepare, simply more time to gain qualification for new additions to the team. We are going to be fit; our horses are going to be fit, and we are going to be ready to go.  I think everyone is feeling very good about it. Team Ireland will be very well prepared when we get the green light.

“We also must consider that the changes to the FEI calendar could result in having two championships in the same year. Team CDS and Horse Sport Ireland are in a fortunate position as there is great strength and depth within the Irish eventing squad. The extra enforced time can be a positive thing as we all work on our future stars so that they will be ready for when the season starts.

“I think my performances in 2019 and early 2020 are a good building block, no matter what lies ahead. I think Rioghan Rua and I have proven that our form is very strong and I’m going to be competing against a lot of the same people again and maybe the same horse and rider combinations. So that gives me great confidence, let’s hope that we move on to bigger and better things in 2020/2021.”

Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua on their lap of honour after a superb victory in the Under 25 competition at Bramham International Horse Trials in 2019 (Photo: Kit Houghton)

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