Essential personnel only as AIPC season opens in Dublin

THE All Ireland Polo Club summer season got underway in a hurry much earlier than anticipated, within days of approval to open the third phase of the Irish government’s recovery plan in early July and a full month ahead due to scheduling issues elsewhere in the country.

Tyrone’s Eamonn Laverty accepted the Brainwave Trophy presented by his wife Mary (l-r) on behalf of teammates, their son Dan, Brad Rainford-Blackett and April Kent

 

The speed at which the high goal tournament for the Brainwave Trophy opened and the low for the Pegus Trophy meant that only essential personnel were allowed entry to the AIPC in Phoenix Park, Dublin Ireland under restrictions that are set to continue into the third week of August.

Mark Stone, David Stone, Nick Murphy and Emily Beere won the Pegus Trophy in their low goal tournament

 

Under normal conditions, spectators line up along the safety railing beside the ‘9 acres’ of the polo ground very near the internationally acclaimed park’s main artery, Chesterfield Avenue. The Victorian Era pavilion would be full of visitors and players stopping in for food and drink instead remaining closed to the public because of ongoing Covid-19 public health restrictions.

Sixt’s Ian McCulla, Jo Whitney, Mark Ronan and Brad Rainford-Blackett won second place in the Pegus Trophy low goal tournament

 

The normal rules of Irish polo have also been restricted, each match starting with a hit-in won on a coin toss rather than the throw-in at the midfield line. The drama of a full-on ride-off has been parked on the side lines for the foreseeable future with players limited to one attempted push off the line of the ball against their opponents before veering away, and matches resume following goals with the ball hit back onto the field.

“We all adhered to social distancing and we played with masks on,” said Eamonn Laverty, captain of the winning high goal Tyrone team when he spoke with Pynck.com about the AIPC season’s first tournament. “It was so good to be back playing really competitive polo tournaments in the Phoenix Park.”

James Connolly (left) of Horseware Ireland and Harrison Boyde for Workpal duel over the ball in the high goal Brainwave Trophy tournament at the All Ireland Polo Club in Phoenix Park, Dublin Ireland

 

Social distancing measures were noted among some, but not all players in a match although many are opting to wear face masks in the event of close play. Pony lines, where horses are readied and changed between chukkas are closed to the public until further notice, and anyone working or visiting in the vicinity must undergo temperature checks and complete a recent travel questionnaire.

Horseware’s Tom MacGuinness (left) in action with James Connolly against Workpal’s Ian Magahey for the Brainwave Trophy at the All Ireland Polo Club in Phoenix Park, Dublin Ireland

 

Eamonn Laverty’s Tyrone team including Dan Laverty, April Kent and Brad Rainford-Blackett was undefeated in their high goal tournament, earning 11 goals over two days although falling short by a half-goal against their nearest opponent, Northern Ireland’s Workpal on 11.5 goals while Horseware trailed on 7.5 goals. The lopsided victory for Tyrone was the result of all matches against Workpal being won in the tournament.

“The ground conditions were probably the best I have ever seen,” explained veteran player and former AIPC President Eamonn Laverty. “The weather was fantastic and we had a good tournament.”

Horseware Ireland’s pony lines were just one example of social distancing with no visitors permitted at the opening of the AIPC summer season

 

Low goal teams Pegus Horse Feed, Sixt Rent a Car and North of Ireland Polo Clubs played their 0 Goal tournament for the Pegus Trophy, David Stone, his son Mark Stone, Nick Murphy and Emily Beere earning the win after two days on 9 goals to 4 from Sixt and 3 from NIPC.

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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