Cian O'Connor
Olympic Bronze Medallist

Cian's Blog: August, 2009

Great Jumping At European Championships

  • European Champion, my good friend Kevin Staut

Jumping in the European Championships at Windsor was superb. Bob Ellis the course designer did a wonderful job, the ground was super, with Martin Collins's surface giving the horses the perfect platform, and both the team and the individual championships came down to the last few people in the ring, which produced a nailbiting finish.

As I wrote here earlier in the week (see previous blog) Ireland were just short of being good enough to take a medal as a team, with only five faults denying us the silver. Today in the individual event Rancorrado was fantastic, he jumped a wonderful clear round in the first, and had a rail down in the second round to finish a very creditable 13th overall.

The European Championships were won by a very good friend of mine, Frenchman Kevin Staut, pictured above, and for whom I'm genuinely delighted. He has had this horse a long time and had planned for this all year, and it is especially nice to see him getting just rewards for his effort.

This was Rancorrado's first championship, the performance he gave was fantastic, but as he gains further experience I've no doubt he will deliver great things in the future.

Ireland's highest place was Cameron Hanley who took fourth overall, and it was very unfortunate that a single time fault cost him a bronze medal. Darragh Kerins with the wonderfully talented Night Train, who by the way is only 15.2hh, finished 12th and again I was 13th - just outside my prediction of finishing in the top ten, but nonetheless I'm very happy with my week.

Best wishes,

A Lot Done, A Lot More To Do!

  • Rancorrado in action at Windsor today

10pm

Just back in my hotel room getting ready to hit the hay. Today was the Nations' Cup here at Windsor, the final of the team medals. We started this morning at 8.30 with the first round. Not alone was it a tiring day physically but also I find these days tiring mentally as I really get focused for the event and put all my energy into it. It's taken until tonight to get my adrenalin levels back to normal.

The Irish team finished 7th of 17 teams today. Darragh had 8 and clear, Cameron was 5 and 4, Thomas was 16 and 12, and I was 9 and 4. These scores, added to our scores from the speed leg on the first day gave us a team total of 35.86 faults.

Cameron produced two very solid rounds, Darragh rode fantastic, the only Irish clear of the competition in the second round, my own horse came back in the second round to jump an absolutely superb round, faulting only at the planks.

Thomas did a good job, I have to say, despite being the discard in both rounds. This is his first championship, his horse is not so easy, and I'm sure he will have learned a lot from the experience.

I can't say we're thrilled by the team performance but when you look at the scores, Silver was won on 31 faults, therefore five faults less and that would have been ours.

You can dissect it all day and say if one guy had one less or that guy had one more, but to be honest, with only the same three riders scores counting both times, and given the fact that our chef d'equipe Robert Splaine was forced to change the team a couple of times, due to other horses being injured, we are not a million miles away from medal success.

Without trying to give waffling sound bites, if we can keep the horses and riders we had here, plus the other top combinations available to Ireland, we have a serious chance to build and develop as a team and achieve medals in Kentucky next year and ultimately the Olympic Games in London in 2012.

This won't happen without support from our national governing body, from our owners, and from the riders getting their heads around what we want and are more than capable of achieving. To borrow the phrase from a certain political party - A lot done, a lot more to do!

In the meantime, I'm still in contention to reach my goal of finishing in the top 10. Check back on Sunday to find out whether I do it or not.

Best wishes,

The Team In Fourth Place After Round One Of Championships

  • Rancorrado in the European Speed class at Windsor

Following the first leg the team is lying in fourth place overall. This is a really good start to the championships, and puts us into a strong position going into Friday's Nations' Cup, which will decide the team medals.

On the individual front we have three Irish in the top 25, Darragh Kerins placing 8th on 0.85 penalties, Cameron Hanley 15th on 1.83, and myself in 23rd place on 3.18, which is less than a fence off the leader Pius Schwizer, who is on a zero score.

However it's a long way to go yet, and you will see the league table very much turned around following Friday's competition.

Best wishes, and check back on Friday for more news.

(Midnight, Wednesday)

Ready For Action

  • Windsor Castle at sunset

The first leg of the European Show Jumping Championships starts here tonight at Windsor at 8.15pm local time. There are 18 teams in all, competing. Thomas Ryan, Cameron Hanley, myself and Darragh Kerins make up the team and jump in that order tonight.

It's a Table C speed, so you don't want to hang around too much, with seconds obviously being added for a fence knocked down. I hacked out Rancorrado this morning and he feels in good form.

Last night we all jumped a warm-up class and that went well. It was ideal to get an opportunity to jump under the lights and many other teams had problems as the lighting was far from perfect.

Luckily our horses didn't mind and we're all itching to get going and looking forward to the class tonight.

Check back later for further updates.

Best wishes,

(2.10pm Tuesday)

Nothing Is Ever Plain Sailing!

  • Cian and Rancorrado line out as part of the Irish team at the European Championships in Windsor, England, beginning Wednesday August 26th

The quintet to represent Ireland at the European Show Jumping championships was announced last Monday and in alphabetical order was listed as below:

Darragh Kerins; Night Train (Owner Double H Farm)

Denis Lynch; Lantinus (Owner Flaminia Straumann)

Cian O'Connor; Rancorrado (Owner Aileen Bryan)

Thomas Ryan; Urleven van de Helle (Owner Gloria Eschenbach)

Billy Twomey; Je t'Aime Flamenco (Owner Sue Davies)

As we were coming closer towards the championships and content with our preparation everything seemed to be running smoothly. But as my late grandmother used to say: "If something seems too good to be true, it usually is!"

Yesterday Horse Sport Ireland issued a statement that said: "Denis Lynch and 'Lantinus' will not now be part of the Irish squad due to compete at the European Show Jumping Championships in Windsor, England later this week. The bay gelding 'Lantinus' was withdrawn from the squad today due to a slight injury which means that under veterinary advice the horse will have to be rested for about four weeks."

Initially when I heard the news I was surprised and shocked, as Lantinus and Denis have clearly been the backbone of the team this season. It's a major blow, obviously, but as riders the rest of the team can't dwell on it and have to think positively that we can do the job. I believe that Cameron Hanley will take his place with SIEC Livello and following the warm up class tomorrow night (Tuesday) the Irish chef d'equipe Robert Splaine will decide the four man team, while the fifth rider will be able to take part in the non championship classes.

There seems to be a pattern since I came into the top level of the sport that there is all the hype and talk at the start of the year as to what riders will or will not go to the championships, but always at the end of the day it seems to be s struggle to get four sound horses capable of jumping at this level.

Sometimes it can be blamed on bad planning, bad stable management, and in this case probably just bad luck. There's no point in denying that it will be an uphill battle for us to achieve a medal at Windsor, but i still think not impossible. All five combinations have jumped clears in 1m60 classes this year. If we can reproduce this form and pull together in the days ahead, I wouldn't bet against us coming home with a medal of some description.

The Championships start on Tuesday with a warm-up class, Wednesday is a Table C which is the first leg of the individual competition and counts for the team medals. Friday will have the two rounds of the Nations' Cup which will then decide the team placings, and Sunday will be the Grand Prix and the final of the individuals.

I have planned and prepared Rancorrado for this and nothing else all year. I will be disappointed if we don't finish within the top 10 individually.

Check back to the site during the week for updates. Fingers and toes crossed - we need it!

Best wishes,

The National Championships - Great Competition But Some Tweaks Needed

  • Mark Kinsella and Irish Independent Echo Beach clearing the water at Coilog

The National Championship was run in Coilog this week over six days by the SJI.

Coilog Equestrian Centre is a wonderful venue and is a credit to the Byrne Family.

While the week-long show had big entries, I believe that we have far too many championships for young horses throughout the year. I mean, there's qualifiers for here, there and everywhere with no prestige in the different titles.

In my own view I would think the current show at the RDS could be used as the final for our young horses. I think we should have the final of the Premier Series at a venue like Coilog, for instance, but I just can't help think that there is a need to make the championships more prestigious, more of a spectacle.

The obvious way for me would be to go back to the old formula of Salthill many years ago where they had two classes every evening, a speed class and a jump-off class. In the end you had a speed champion and a national champion and while everyone must be commended for their efforts in running this week-long event I can't help think that it should be held somewhere like the Phoenix Park instead.

In countries like Holland and Germany they take over a big public venue for such an event, bring in corporate tents, set up a sand arena for the evening, and run it at 7pm so that there's a possibility of getting it onto TV. I just believe we need to think again about how we can enhance the image of the whole thing.

From my own point of view I'd no luck today. I suffered a fall with Markopoulo but we're both OK. He stumbled on landing after a fence and fell over. Both him and Splendor have done a lot of shows in a row, so they will both benefit from their few weeks off.

Mark Kinsella was fantastic with Echo Beach at Coilog, he was third in the 2nd qualification and finished 2nd today in the Grand Prix over a stiff track built by Alan Wade, who in my opinion has shown that he can build with the best in the world.

Mark has put in a lot of work and has come a long way in a short space of time and the thing I liked most about how he rode today was how calm and focused he remained. This championship gives riders the opportunity to jump and compete under pressure which in my book is invaluable. I don't mean to be critical of the good work done, but we must aim for the stars even if we have to settle for the moon.

In addition I'd like to congratulate Nicola FitzGibbon, who was a worthy winner of the National Championships with her consistent bay gelding Puissance.

This weekend I've no show. Rancorrado will be travelling to Windsor towards the end of the week, where the European Senior Show Jumping Championships begin next Tuesday week, August 25. Check back next Sunday for a preview for those upcoming championships.

Best wishes,

Csio Dublin - Better Than Ever

  • Rancorrado in action

As I said to you in my build-up to this show, Dublin is one of my favourites. It surpassed all expectations with a wonderful week and everyone in good form , especially with the great weather.

My results overall were good but there's no denying we would have liked to have gone better than 8th place in the Nations' Cup. It was certainly not the performance we were expecting. On paper it looked like we had a very good chance, but in practice it just didn't work out on the day. There's always great expectations when jumping in the Aga Khan trophy.

I think we all got a wake up call last week. Certain areas need to be improved before the upcoming European Championships and if we do happen to go on and win a medal there then at least we will have learned from our below-par performance at Dublin.

I was, however, very happy with Rancorrado's second round and he will now be rested until the European Championships in Windsor in a fortnight's time.

Baloufina jumped superbly, coming 2nd in the opening speed stakes and 2nd again in the Speed Derby. Splendor also had a good result in the opening class, finishing third.

My stable rider Mark Kinsella had a fantastic week, winning the 6 yr-old Qualifier on Arabella and topping off the evening by winning the National Grand Prix Qualifier on Irish Independent Echo Beach.

Course builder Alan Wade did a top class job all week and hats off to the RDS for the ground conditions, which were once again this year the best we have seen in the main arena.

The day after Dublin is always a bit sombre. I think we build up so much hype before the show and it's always a bit dead afterwards. I drive out of the RDS on a Sunday night with that song by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman playing in my head - Time to Say Goodbye. You want it to last forever, but it's only a few days long and by the time you get home you're looking forward to next year already.

Today is a time to get the place tidied up and hack out the horses. We'll be heading to the National Championships at Coilog from Thursday to Sunday where Mark Kinsella and I will be competing in the Grand Prix classes only.

Check back next Monday for more news.

Best wishes,

Big Week Ahead

  • Casper jumping the Puissance at Dublin - the world's greatest show

I had a reasonably quiet weekend, competition-wise. I jumped some of the horses at the South County Show and the rest I kept fresh for Dublin. Mark Kinsella had a good weekend with PS I Love You, placing 3rd and 2nd in the 1m30 class on Saturday and Sunday.

Tomorrow my whole team moves into the RDS. I suppose this is the week we've been working towards and where we all try our best. Dublin Horse Show is in my view the best show in the world by far, for many reasons, most especially because of the electric atmosphere the Irish public creates.

The show kicks off on Wednesday with the international classes and runs right through to Sunday. The main feature of the show is the Aga Khan Trophy on Friday, which is the final leg of the Meydan Nations Cup series.

Of course there's something for everyone - there's national and international jumping, pony jumping, loose jumping, showing, and hunt chasing. It's a great week and being located in the middle of Ballsbridge it's very accessible for bars, restaurants and so on, and I'd encourage as many people as possible to come along and watch. I'd certainly appreciate the support!

Horses I compete will be Rancorrado, Splendor and Baloufina in the international classes and Markopoulo in the national Grand Prix class. Check back during the week for updates on the news page

Best wishes and fingers crossed!

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