Cian O'Connor heaps praise on Longford's Michael Kelly following five-star Grand Prix victory in Poland

Alan Walsh

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Alan Walsh

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alan.walsh@longfordleader.ie

Longford's Michael Kelly came in for high praise this week after Cian O'Connor  and the 11-year-old stallion, Good Luck, produced a stunning performance to win the five-star Grand Prix at the Polish Nations Cup show in Sopot 

Sunday's success came just a week after after O’Connor returned from a six week lay-off with a groin injury and speaking afterwards he said, 

“I have of course been off for a few weeks and the whole team including Michael Kelly and Ross Mulholand deserve a lot of credit for the work they put in while I was injured."

Carrickedmond native Kelly joined Cian O’Connor’s Karlswood Stables in October 2015, departing the Irish Army Equitation School where he enjoyed notable international showjumping success over a twelve years spell.

A talented gaelic footballer with club and county, Michael featured at mid-field in Longford’s 3-8 to 3-5 win over Meath in the 2002 Leinster Minor Championship Final and he graduated to line out with the seniors in 2003 and 2004, before focusing on his showjumping career.

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Last Sunday, a tough first round course yielded just four clear rounds from the 50 starters. The top 25% went forward to the jump-off including the four clears, six riders on just a time fault, along with the three fastest four fault scores from the opening round.

O’Connor and Good Luck ensured they had the plum draw as last to go, after they produced the fastest clear of the opening round.

Portuguese rider Luciana Diniz took the lead when second last to go with the chestnut mare Fit For Fun and stopped the clock clear in 48.77 seconds.

However O’Connor and Good Luck knocked almost a second off the target, crossing the line in 47.59 to take the winners prize of almost €50,000.

Luciana Diniz finished as runner-up while Dutchman Marc Houtzager came home in third aboard Sterrehof’s Calimero, with the only other double clear of the competition.

A delighted O'Connor revealed, "“I’m over the moon. The horse is getting a little bit older now and is a lot more consistent. I saw the time was tight in the first round and came inside the vertical to the treble and that really helped. I didn’t see many others go in the jump-off but the lads, Bertram [Allen] and Michael Blake, were a great help and said to leave a stride out from fence one to two and I think that’s where I made up the time.

“I have of course been off for a few weeks and the whole team including Michael Kelly and Ross Mulholand deserve a lot of credit for the work they put in while I was injured. This is a great win for the team and especially for my owners Nicole Walker and Frank Stronach who have been such brilliant supporters of mine. This is a very important win as it now pre-qualifies us for all five-star Grand Prix’s for the next 12 months so big shows like Aachen or Dublin we don’t have to jump earlier at the week to qualify which is great.”

Meanwhile, today, Thursday, June 15, O’Connor continued his winning run by taking victory in the 1m45 speed class at the five-star show at Treffen in Austria.

O’Connor and the 12-year-old stallion Copain du Perchet CH produced a winning time of 65.17 seconds in a competition that attracted a massive 73 starters.

Speaking afterwards, the London Olympic bronze medalist said:

“I’m so happy to have been able to take part in this wonderful event for the first time. It’s great to have dealt with the first test so quickly, because that creates a great impetus for the weekend. In the Grand Prix on Sunday I won’t be riding this horse. For now I’m hoping that this weekend will carry on as well as it began.”

Dutch rider Jur Vrieling took runner-up spot with Corporal VDL (65.31), while reigning European Champion Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED) finished third with Gioia van het Neerenbosch (68.53).

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