22 teams turned out on a sunny, breezy and very dusty Sunday to try their luck at winning the region’s coveted place at the RDS in August. Tynagh Riding Club were victorious when their team captain produced a clear round to pip Round Tower in a two-way jump off after both teams finished on a zero score.
Hanley’s equestrian centre in Claremorris was a super venue for the biggest event in our region. With stabling available, the majority of the Letterkenny contingent travelled to Mayo on Saturday and enjoyed a good evening’s craic in one of the local watering holes. But the upbeat atmosphere received a serious dent on Sunday morning when Nadine found Molly lame in her stable at breakfast time. Immediately ruling her out of the competition, Nadine set about finding a vet to make the mare comfortable while heads were put together to find the best substitute for the anchor combination on the Finn team. Francis volunteered Zak’s services and Damien stepped into the breach to take the ride and sign up for a hectic day as a rider on all three teams.
The spacious, poplar-lined competition arena was covered in sunlight throughout the day and the course provided a fitting challenge for such a competitive event. The proceedings began with a parade of teams which gave Damien a taste of the day come. He popped up like a jack-in-the-box on each of our teams and Millie had plenty of opportunity to familiarise herself with the environment.
It was a day of mixed luck for our riders and by the end of Round One it was the Lennon team of Erica, Francis, Damien and Geraldine that kept a clean slate and carried our hopes into the second half of the competition. The Donegal Gaeltacht team were another of the six teams still in serious contention on a zero score.
The second round of jumping brought a high toll of scattered poles and planks and the number of clear rounds dwindled significantly. By the end of the day just two clubs finished on a zero score and they jumped-off to decide who travelled straight to Ballsbridge and who took a diversion by Stradbally for the wild card qualifier at the festival.
As the convoy of trailers and lorries headed for Donegal, they were passed by a solitary club member travelling in the opposite direction. Francis had lost his car key somewhere in the acres of dust and sand of the extensive venue and it was Maura who saved the day by heroically driving the long road to Claremorris with the spare.
We may have to wait another year but we’ll look forward to the 2012 qualifier with passion and enthusiasm. 2011 gave us a wonderful day out in a lovely venue amongst good friends. Well done everybody. A big thank you to Audrey, Leo, Geraldine, Tanya and Keary who fulfilled the club’s volunteer duties at the event and to all our riders and foot followers who were there to grab the reins or put up a practice jump at every moment of the long day.