Drama at Drammen – Second Place Finish for Ireland Longines EEF Nations Cup

  • 2 June 2023, 21:24

Taylor Vard and his Ireland team of Matt Garrigan, Conor Drain, Nano Healy and Diarmuid Howley in Drammen, Norway

Ireland took the runner up spot following an afternoon of top sport with plenty of excitement in Norway

The Underwriting Exchange Irish Show Jumping Team claimed second place in the Longines EEF Nations Cup Regional Qualifier in Drammen, Norway this evening, Friday 2nd of June.

Under the direction of Deputy High Performance Manager Taylor Vard the team of Matt Garrigan, Nano Healy, birthday boy Diarmuid Howley and Conor Drain finished as runners up after a thrilling jump-off with The Netherlands.

Drawn second to jump out of 11 teams Ireland got off to a strong start with an excellent clear round from Garrigan and the 10-year-old gelding Quantum Robin V, owned by BWG Stables and Sova Sporthorses GmbH.

Clear rounds from Howley and Drain kept Ireland on a team total of 0 at the half way point. Howley partnered the 9-year-old mare Uriga Va, owned by Manfred Von Allwörden. Drain was on board the Conny Viscaal-owned Imagine, a 10-year-old gelding.

The pressure mounted as the second round commenced in reverse order, with four teams on four faults hoping to move up the leader board.

Garrigan kept Ireland in contention with another clear round. Faults in both rounds left Nano Healy and Oak Grove’s Americana, owned by Osaühing Fort Holding, as the discard score.

An unlucky pole down over the last kept Howley from recording a double clear. With the final rider still to jump Ireland and The Netherlands were both on a team score of 4 faults.

What appeared as a simple change in order with the final Dutch rider coming into the arena ahead of Drain was in fact a lot more than that behind the scenes. A mishap in the warm-up saw Drain and his mount part company, resulting in a broken bridle. The change in order was in fact a chance for Drain and his team to piece together a bridle and get back on board.

Little would anyone have known this was the case, Drain cantered into the arena and jumped another foot-perfect clear round to secure Ireland a place in the jump-off.

With just one rider from each team selected for the jump-off, it came down to Garrigan riding against Eric Ten Cate. An excellent clear round in 40.14 seconds left it all to play for. Unfortunately, Ten Cate had the advantage of being in the second rider into the arena, leaving The Netherlands in pole position.

Speaking after drama that unfolded, Vard said: “It was all up to Conor Drain, he was warming up and there were shadows on the fences, the horse spooked causing Conor to fall. This happened with only four riders before him. The horse then ran away and the bridle broke.

“We had to run and get bits of the bridle together, then he was back on the horse, a couple of jumps and then he jumped a clear round. It was unbelievable!”

“Diarmuid could have won it in the second round, which was a pity, they were very unlucky. We were in the jump-off and Matt’s horse is a young horse. It was a gamble, he went as fast as he could on such a young horse but I have to say they were brilliant, absolutely brilliant.”