THE Irish team finished in equal fifth place with Britain and Switzerland at Friday’s Nations' Cup in La Baule, France.
The first leg of the 2012 show jumping Superleague, which features the world's top eight teams, saw such a tight finish that the Netherlands were forced to enter a jump-off for first place with Belgium, which Belgium ultimately won.
Ireland finished the first round on just eight faults, with an opening clear from Cork's Shane Sweetnam and Amaretto Darco, with Jessica Kurten and Vincente accumulating five faults, and Cian on Blue Loyd and Denis Lynch with Lantinus each having one fence down.
Belgium and the Netherlands both finished on four faults, with the jump-off producing victory for the former.
Afterwards Team Ireland's show jumping manager Robert Splaine said: "This was a very tough competition. Olympic qualification was at stake for many of the combinations at La Baule today, so the level of competition was incredible.
"All of our riders put in good performances but at the end of the day we just didn't get enough clear rounds, although Shane Sweetnam gave us a great start and we had two more zero scores from Jessica Kurten and Cian O'Connor.
"Overall, I was pleased with the performance of our combinations and I'm just disappointed we didn't finish higher on the leaderboard."
Cian, who with Blue Loyd has jumped three clear rounds out of four in Nations Cups this season, conceded the first-round performance needed to be better.
"Obviously, having won last year, we would have preferred to do better and will need to look at an improved performance in our first round next time out," he said.
"I am excited with what lies ahead this summer. It is my intention to jump as many Nations Cup competitions as possible with Blue Loyd," he said, adding that he has ambitions to take one of the two individual slots available for Ireland in the Olympics, but feels he still needs to prove he is worthy of carrying Irish hopes in London 2012.
"It’s early days, but I’m very pleased with how the horse is developing and we will take one show at a time,"Shane Sweetnam/Amaretto Darco 0/4
Jessica Kurten/Vincente 5/0
Cian O'Connor/Blue Loyd 4/0
Denis Lynch/Lantinus 4/4
TOTAL 12 faults