Cork's Shane Sweetnam helps Ireland to land Aga Khan trophy again

Irish team won a jump-off against France to taste glory for the first time since 2015
Cork's Shane Sweetnam helps Ireland to land Aga Khan trophy again

Ireland’s Cian O’Connor, Shane Sweetnam, team manager Michael Blake, Conor Swail and Max Wachman celebrate with the Aga Khan trophy after winning for the first time since 2015. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

CONOR Swail and Count Me In delivered a dramatic jump-off victory for Ireland over France to end a seven-year drought for the hosts in the Aga Khan Cup at the RDS.

Cork's Shane Sweetnam was also part of the successful team.

It set the seal on a dream week for showjumping on these islands, as it came just seven days after Ireland had secured qualification to the Paris Olympics by finishing fourth at the World Championships in Herning, agonisingly close to a medal.

For much of proceedings, it looked as if Michael Blake’s squad were in control at the Simmonscourt arena, but such are the tight margins at the highest level that it needed a clear round from anchor man, Cian O’Connor and his Tokyo Olympics horse Kilkenny just to make the jump-off.

With Kilkenny just returning to this level of competition after a lengthy break and James Kann Cruz (Shane Sweetnam) and Berlux Z (Max Wachman) lacking the necessary gears, the responsibility for completing the comeback was entrusted to Swail.

Blake had made that decision this morning, which was why he sent Count Me In as pathfinder, allowing the 15-year-old sufficient recovery time in the event of a jump-off.

And it paid off as Swail, who had already delivered a double clear, quickly got ahead on the clock between the first and second obstacles, finishing a second and a half quicker than Marc Dilasser and Arioto Du Gevres in a time of 30.31.

“I actually didn’t know whether I was quick enough. I looked at the screen and it said ‘2’ and ‘2’ is no good!” said Swail, who ironically, was competing at the Dublin Horse Show for the first time since Ireland’s last Aga Khan Cup triumph in 2015. 

Now 51, the Down native, whose brother Marcus is the team vet, is in the form of his life and sits at fourth in the world rankings.

“This horse is one of the best horses in the world if not the best horse. He’s fast, he’s careful, he can jump anything and I’m glad we were able to do it today. A great result for us.”

Shane Sweetnam riding James Kann Cruz reacts to knocking a pole in his final round. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady
Shane Sweetnam riding James Kann Cruz reacts to knocking a pole in his final round. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

Ireland led on zero faults after the first round, with Swail, Cork man Sweetnam and Kildare native O’Connor all foot perfect. Tipperary 19-year-old Max Wachman, who is trained by O’Connor and was making his Aga Khan debut just a few months after sitting his Leaving Cert, almost joined them but had the last down. He will never forget his introduction to a unique atmosphere in global showjumping, however, and had only one down in the second round also.

That came after Swail’s second clear and Sweetnam and his Irish-bred nine-year-old partner looked set to emulate the first-line duo, only to get too close to the final jump.

That ramped the pressure up on O’Connor but the Olympic medallist, the only survivor from the last successful Aga Khan Cup-winning squad, a teammate of Sweetnam’s when Ireland won the European Championships two years later and by far the most capped Nations Cup rider in Ireland’s history, revels in such situations and with his 10-year-old partner answering his every call, they delivered the flawless round required to set up the final, tense, chapter.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

People holding phone with App

It's all about Cork!

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

It's all about Cork!

App Store LogoGoogle Play Logo
The Echo - Women in Sport Awards - Logo



Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Contact Us Cookie Policy Privacy Policy Terms and Conditions

© Evening Echo Ltd, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork. Registered in Ireland: 523713

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more