A number of Laois riders were very much to the fore at the European Mounted Games Championships held at the Tattersalls Sales complex at Ratoath in Co. Meath recently. The vent featured both team and individual events and it was the first time in 15 years that Ireland had hosted a major mounted games championships.
A team consists of five riders and ponies and is divided into four age groups. Laois was represented by Darragh Carolan from Stradbally at U-12, Graham Devitt from Timahoe, Calum Bolger from Kildangan and Ian Hyland from Monastrevin at U-14 and Andrew Devitt from Timahoe at U-17 and Open, the latter being for the senior riders with no upper age limit.
There are 48 riders entered in the individual competition, which began with the qualifying rounds taking place all day Wednesday and Thursday morning. The top 16 riders progressed to the semi-finals on Friday evening with the top eight then going forward to the Grand final on Saturday night. Mark Devitt from Ratheniska competed to retain his European Individual Title.
The U-17 competition did not disappoint with a nail-biting finish which resulted in a popular win for Ireland. They had to fight hard to fend off the persistent challenge from Scotland who were only three points adrift on 124 at the end with England on 120.
The Irish team members were Timahoe’s Andrew Devitt, Graham Beirne, Philip Weldon, Peter McCarthy and Niall Hughes. They were expertly trained by Mark Devitt, himself a former European Individual winner
Mounted Games is a branch of equestrian sport which features very fast races performed by riders on well-trained ponies. They require a high degree of athletic ability, good riding skills, hand-to-eye coordination, general determination to see things through to the end no matter what, and a competitive spirit which nevertheless requires an ability to work together with other riders and a willingness to help one another.