Initial reports of Sunday’s North West League final paint a picture of heart stopping entertainment and a great spread of success across all the clubs. With double points up for grabs on the day, nerves were stretched to their limits and the tension was high.
Judge and coursebuilder Tony Ennis set a technically challenging course which sorted out the men from the boys at every level. Reports of the first half of the day are not yet in but the description of the competition at Intermediate level and above is hair raising. No fewer than eight riders overcame Tony’s challenge to make it into the Intermediate jump-off. Tirconaill pulled off a huge victory with Charlie Vial riding a cracking round to finish in top spot. Best of Letterkenny’s finishers were the ever-consistent Anne Chambers in fourth and Leo in sixth.
Last year the combined Advanced Intermediate & Open class was sparsely contended and the finishing order on any given day was almost predictable. This year, with some talented riders from Inishowen and Rosann pushing up the numbers, the class has become truly competitive and exciting. Sunday’s final was nothing short of breathtaking. Five riders made it through to the final. Patricia Warren had to have been the unluckiest rider of the day when her immaculate round was deemed imperfect after a technical error with her approach to the start line. Damien, league leader coming into the show, drew the unenviable short straw and started first. His partnership with Armstrong has given us some of our finest club moments over the years and the pair lived up to their reputation by going clear in 32.59, practically three seconds faster than Charlie’s winning ride in the Intermediate class over the same course at 90cm. The time looked unbeatable as rider after rider failed to match it. Claire Wylie was the fifth and final rider to take up the challenge and the best was saved until last. She rode a textbook round in an incredible 32.1 seconds to deny Damien the red rosette, but the league title was undeniably his.
There was no time for relaxing as Tony ploughed straight into the Intermediate & Above Accumulator. In another cracking competition it was our own Keary Smith who topped the leaderboard on Arthur with a smashing clear round in a sharp time. His closest rival was his partner Anne who looked sure to take the spoils with a faster round but Molly left one pole on the ground to ensure that Keary claimed bragging rights for the journey home.
What a great league! Congratulations to all competitors and particularly to the league winners whose consistent performances over all five legs illustrate the beauty of this annual competition. The spoils were fairly spread across the clubs with Inishowen taking the Crosspoles, the Gaeltachts claiming the Welcome Stakes [Eamonn McGee], Primary [Liz Potter] and Advanced Primary [Lawrence Smyth], and Letterkenny landing the Intermediate [Leo Porter] and combined Advanced Intermediate & Open [Damien Gallagher].
Thanks to everybody who helped make the 2013 North West League such a great success. It’s a great tribute to the cooperative spirit of the five Donegal clubs and bodes well for future collaborations. Our next joint event will be the North West Team Show Jumping and Dressage Challenges at Eglinton on Sunday 28 April. Roll on the big day!
Full results and points table provided by Ruth!