Ireland’s Battle May Be More Emotional Than Physical
Although the dust is settling in the aftermath of the dismissal and eventual reinstatement of Eddie Macken as the team’s trainer, that controversy has done little to boost Irish morale, writes Louise Parkes.
Tommy Wade, who produced phenomenal results during his five-year tenure as Ireland’s chef d’equipe, has been sacked, and it remains to be seen whether the new management–which includes the legendary Eddie Macken as trainer, Col. Ned Campion as chef d’equipe, and John Ledingham as team manager–can produce Ireland’s long-awaited Olympic success.
The original short list of five riders has been extended to six because Marion Hughes is now clearly also a contender.
Kevin Babington, who has become a core member of the squad in recent years, is Ireland’s most likely medal contender.
The 35-year-old from Carrick-on-Suir in County Tipperary spent time with the legendary Iris Kellett in Kildare before traveling, at age 19, to the United States. There he worked with John Madden and then with Frank and Mary Chapot. But his career only took off because of his partnership with the brilliant Irish-bred gelding Carling King, owned by amateur rider Saly Glassman, at whose Kindle Hill Farm his yard is now located. Despite successes on the U.S. circuit, Babington’s potential long went unrecognized by the Irish selectors. So, he traveled to Europe in 2000 to show what he could do and has never looked back.
Babington was on many of the teams that notched up the record 10 Nations Cup victories during the 1999/2000 season, and he was on the European Championships gold-medal team in 2001. He placed eighth individually at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez (Spain) and last summer was 11th individually at the European Championships, where he jumped double-clear in the team competition to help secure Ireland’s passage to Athens.
Babington and Carling King started the year with good ribbons on the U.S. circuit before taking the grand prix at the CSIO La Baule (France) in May, and they’ve not shown their usual form in recent legs of the Samsung Super League series.
Babington met his wife, Dianne, while working at the Chapots’ farm, and they have a 17-month-old girl named Gwyneth.
Cian O’Connor heads the new breed of young riders who’ve recently changed the face of Irish show jumping. A prot