Olympic bronze medallist Cian O’Connor was presented with The Irish Field’s prestigious 2012 senior show jumper of the year award at a ceremony in Co Meath yesterday.
The show jumper overcame several late challenges to take his place in the show jumping final at London 2012 and went on to secure the bronze medal on Blue Loyd 12, who was then owned by the rider and the O’Reilly Hylands.
Denied a place in the jump-off for gold by just 0.02 seconds, O’Connor returned to the main arena at Greenwich Park to decide the silver and bronze medals. He looked set for silver until the final fence came down, leaving him in the bronze medal position. In doing so, he secured Ireland’s first equestrian medal at the Olympic Games.
O’Connor and Blue Loyd 12 returned to the Dublin Horse Show, where they joined three other Irish combinations to land the Aga Khan Trophy. It was the first time Ireland had won the historic trophy in eight years, a victory that O’Connor was also part of. He had shown good form earlier in the season at Wellington in Florida and on a tour in the United Arab Emirates, along with the Nations Cup shows around Europe.
“2012 was a really amazing year for me and I am deeply honoured that The Irish Field has seen fit to acknowledge my achievements with this award,” said O’Connor. “In particular, I am delighted that such a prestigious publication has recognised the significance of my Olympic bronze medal – the first Olympic equestrian medal ever to be won in Ireland’s long and distinguished history in the sport.
“I would like to dedicate this award to all the great Irish riders who have preceded me, the people who over decades made this country a byword for equestrian excellence and to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude.”
Co Meath event rider Sarah Ennis was honoured with the senior event rider of the year award. Ennis showed a remarkable level of consistency last year, featuring in the top-four at all of the international events in Ireland, which resulted in her being the highest ranked Irish rider on the HSBC Rankings.
Highlights in Ireland included her victory at the Ballindenisk International in September, while she was also second to British Olympian William Fox-Pitt at the Tattersalls International Horse Trials in May. In between those performances, Ennis was third at Britain’s prestigious Belton International.
The dressage rider of the year award was presented to Paralympian Helen Kearney. The Co Wicklow-based rider, who has a progressive degenerative disorder, enjoyed a remarkable few days in London, claiming three medals.
Riding Mister Cool, Kearney first claimed silver in the Grade 1a individual competition at Greenwich Park, a performance that was crucial in the Irish team taking the bronze medal. She followed up by winning bronze in the individual freestyle test Grade 1a.
The junior event rider of the year accolade went to Cathal Daniels from Co Galway. Following two national victories and a good fifth place at the Tattersalls International Horse Trials, Daniels was selected for the Irish team at the European Championships in France.
Riding the home produced Master Murrose, Daniels was instrumental in securing team gold and achieved a personal highlight by winning individual gold.
Paraic Kenny from Co Wexford was awarded the junior show jumper of the year award. Highlights of his year included being part of Ireland’s Pony Nations Cup-winning team in France last April, while he also won the Pony Grand Prix at Hagen in Germany during the summer.
Riding his winning mount Grey Ross, he was selected for the team that travelled to the European Championships in France. After winning the first qualifier, he went on to finish best of the Irish in individual 18th.