‘Hurling on Horseback’ open to all at Polo Wicklow

THE winter season has opened to all in the arena at Polo Wicklow, including a group of beginners who took their first lesson only four weeks before their inaugural match on Sunday, 27th October at Kilpoole Hill just outside Wicklow Town.

Milly Coyne and Brandon Keogh from Wexford along with Niki Clince from Blessington, County Wicklow earned their spurs in the Novice Cup match, mixing in and playing against experienced players in the four-chukka match.

Niki Clince took polo lessons for one month before playing in her first tournament while twin sister Pamela will soon be joining the team

Known widely as the ‘Sport of Kings’, amateur polo in Ireland is as much affordable as many sports including amateur competitive cycling, and far less in costs than sailing. Polo in Ireland is becoming much more of a crossover sport, attracting new players from show jumping as well as hurling, one of the four main sports of the Gaelic Athletic Association.

“I love it,” said Brandon Keogh, who has lined out for the Wexford minor panel. “It is similar to hurling. It’s a lot quicker on a horse but it came naturally.”

While connecting to a ball with a polo mallet was an easy transition for Brandon to make, his first lesson just four weeks previous to the match was the first time he ever sat on a horse.

Well used to handling a hurly and sliothar, learning to ride was in the care of Polo Wicklow’s Polo Manager, Siobhan Herbst, who had guided relative newcomer Blondie Horan to two spectacular goals scored in the Novice Cup match.

Siobhan Herbst (Keelings team), Louise Regazzoli, Sergio Valor, Brian Lynam (Lamorlaye team), Caroline Keeling and Blondie Horan go after the ball in the Novice Cup

Just into her second season of competition polo, Blondie Horan was on fire in the fourth chukka of the match, scoring a once in a lifetime goal from offside to nearside and under her pony’s neck before going on to score the tie-breaking goal and the 7-6 win for Keelings.

Novice Cup winners Brandon Keogh, Blondie Horan, Caroline Keeling, Polo Wicklow founder Micky Herbst, Siobhan Herbst and Niki Clince, winners of the Novice Cup

“In the first minute of the very last chukka, Blondie had the goal of a lifetime,” said Siobhan Herbst, who lined out as well for the winning Keelings team on 7-6 goals against Lamorlaye. “She did the whole length of the arena, offside and nearside (control of the ball) and scored a nearside under the neck goal and went on to score the winning shootout goal that broke the tie.”

Siobhan Herbst (Keelings team), Louise Regazzoli, Sergio Valor, Brian Lynam (Lamorlaye team), Caroline Keeling and Blondie Horan go after the ball in the Novice Cup

Lamorlaye Patron Brian Lynam, Polo Wicklow founder Micky Herbst and his daughter, Polo Manager Siobhan Herbst, team members Milly Coyne and Louise Regazzoli

The rules of polo allow only four players per team although substitutions can be made throughout a match. Millie Coyne lined out for Lamorlaye with relative newcomers Louise Regazzoli and Blondie Horan along with the experienced Bryan Lynam while Brandon Keogh with beginner Niki Clince were joined by Blondie Horan, recent newcomer Louise Regazzoli and the experienced Caroline Keeling.

Beginner polo players Milly Coyne and Brandon Keogh began taking lessons just one month before playing in their first tournament

“It was so exciting,” said show jumper Niki Clince of her first polo match. “There were some who had been playing longer than I had. I have had such a great time since I have been coming here to Polo Wicklow, it has changed my life. I never met the players with experience but they were giving a little bit of advice, taking you under their wings and they are great players.

“It’s that inclusion that takes polo to a whole different level.”

Lessons at Polo Wicklow, the entry into that first match to be played can be arranged for groups or privately by phoning (0404) 67164, or see online at http://www.polowicklow.com.

Kim Mullahey

Kim Mullahey is Pynck.com’s Ireland Correspondent. She holds an honours undergraduate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Chicago and has taught Adult Education Creative Writing Studies. Through a media career spanning nearly 25 years Kim has written and photographed regional news, national and international horse sports, fashion and lifestyle. Kim lives with her husband and son in Kildare Ireland, and a stray marmalade cat who has adopted the family.

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