Chance phone call sparks enduring links to polo for Ireland and the USA

POLO Wicklow Ireland’s founder Michael Herbst was amazed to see so many long-time friends at recent anniversary celebrations this month that saw Ireland meet the USA in the country’s only year-round, all-weather arena, and it all began with a phone call 30 years ago.

Ireland and the USA have swapped tournament wins over 30 years – it all came down to the first throw-in of the 30th Anniversary for Polo Wicklow where everyone was a winner’s Jacqueline O’Neill with the next generation winners of the Novice Cup at Polo Wicklow Ireland, the University College Dublin Bodacious Tatas team taking a very special trophy

Renowned commentator and retired polo player Lar Sheeran (l-r) Marie O’Connell of Ballyhenry Polo Club, polo player Alex Reynolds and Polo Wicklow founder Michael Herbst, Angela Madden and Sean Reynolds of the Rits polo team at the 30th anniversary Black Tie Ball in Polo Wicklow Ireland

Micky, as he is affectionately known to all who know him whether past, present or future, is convinced that the only people who do not play polo are those who believe they can’t, and his conviction comes with the recommendation that anyone who is not playing polo must give it try as soon as next week. It wasn’t for his first or even his 10th polo match that took him to Newport, Rhode Island USA to play on a team against the USA; it was, however, a match made in heaven, the spark that lit the bug to build and arena in Wicklow: the USA’s Yale University team has mounted a team ever since, beginning with that first fateful phone call, 30 years ago.

The USA’s Liz and Martin Brayboy and Eileen Flint at the 30th anniversary Black Tie Ball at Polo Wickloow Ireland

Polo Wicklow polo manager Siobhan Herbst gets a big hello hug from Irish socialite and solicitor Ger Kean at the 30th anniversary Black Tie Ball

Polo player Denise Power and friend Phil Hennebry with Polo Wicklow manager Siobhan Herbst at the 30th anniversary Black Tie Ball

“I got a phone call 30 years ago and the man on the other end said, ‘I built an arena and I would like to have you on a team’, said Yale University’s polo manager and team captain (retired) Eileen Flint when she spoke with at the recent celebrations. “I had no idea who this man was but yes indeed, I was up for a polo match in Ireland.

Weekend celebrations in May included the Novice Cup that brought the season’s beginners – most from University College Dublin – to the arena where so many have learned the sport of ‘Hurling on Horseback’ in matches guided by veteran players. The Novice Cup match, sponsored by paved the way for the main event, when once again Ireland met the USA but this time and for one time only, the tournament ended with everyone a winner.

Former polo player and renowned horsewoman Carol Stone and Irish polo player Michael Gately at the 30th anniversary Black Tie Ball at Polo Wicklow

USA polo player Sofia de Angelis, All Ireland Polo Club manager David Stone and internaitonal polo’s doyen Renata Coleman at the 30th anniversary Black Tie Ball at Polo Wicklow Ireland

Polo player and film maker Marco Herbst, Jane Stephenson and Peter Judd were at Polo Wicklow Ireland for the 30th anniversary Black Tie Ball

“It’s not just a game, it’s a family,” added Eileen Flint. “We are very fortunate to have this arena and consequently nobody else has it as good as we do.”

Radiantly healthy octogenarian Micky is comfortably settled into retirement from polo, although occasionally keeping his hand in as Third Man or sidelines umpire (see the video with Micky Herbst, Eileen Flint and the USA Yale University’s Liz Brayboy). Meanwhile, the next generation polo manager has taken up the reins for Polo Wicklow.

Ready to party at the 30th anniversary Black Tie Ball at Polo Wicklow Ireland were J Gnazi Santor (l-r), Andreia Teixeira and Marcella Lossio

Next generation players showed that the future is bright for emerging players in the Novice Cup tournament at Polo Wicklow Ireland

Winners all, the USA and Ireland teams, their families and friends at the 30th anniversary of Polo Wicklow Ireland

The daughter of Micky and Wendy Herbst, Siobhan Herbst thanked her parents at the 30th anniversary black-tie ball and added: “None of this would be possible without the support of my parents.”


Tags: Arts & Culture

Image credits: Kim Mullahey

Kim Mullahey

Kim Mullahey is’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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