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Glory days of three-in-a-row Aga Khan team recalled

Story by John Donohoe

Friday, 11th August, 2017 2:25pm

Glory days of three-in-a-row Aga Khan team recalled

James Kernan, Captain Con Power, Jane Darragh, wife of the late Paul, and Eddie Macken admire the Aga Khan Cup at the RDS last week. Photo: Sam Barnes Sportsfile

They were the glory years of Irish showjumping, when the riders and their horses were household names. The late 1970s saw one of the greatest national show jumping teams emerge, and three of the four were Meath-based.

Last week, to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1977 Aga Khan Cup win, Eddie Macken, Captain Con Power, James Kernan and the late Paul Darragh were honoured at the Association of Sports Journalists in Ireland's Legends’ Lunch at the Croke Park Hotel.

That year's victory at the RDS was the first of a three-in-a-row period of success. The same four riders competed all three years: Paul Darragh on Heather Honey, James Kernan on Condy, Eddie Macken on Boomerang and Captain Con Power on Coolronan, Castle Park and Rockbarton.

Paul Darragh was based at Waterside Stud, Tara, and Captain Con Power at Moynalvey. Eddie Macken lived at Kells, and the trio were joined by a mere slip of a lad, James Kernan, a 19 year-old from Crossmaglen, Co Armagh.

The chef d'equipe was Colonel Sean Daly from Dunshaughlin. The quartet is widely regarded as the most talented Irish showjumping team ever assembled and while Paul Darragh sadly died in 2005, the remaining members of the team were on hand last week to reminisce on their time in the saddle.

They were joined at the event, hosted by ASJI and sponsored by Devenish Nutrition, by friends and colleagues from across the world of equestrianism and other sports, as well as journalists.

The team’s win in 1979 marked the fifth and most recent time the Aga Khan trophy was won outright, following a jump-off with Great Britain. Kernan and Macken would both go on to represent Ireland at the Olympic Games, while Con Power’s son Robbie is a well-known National Hunt jockey, having won the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard Sizing John.

Peter Byrne, president of ASJI, explained the reason the association chose to honour these showjumpers.

"The foursome of Darragh, Kernan, Macken and Power brought great pleasure to those of us who remember with fondness their equestrian careers, especially those heady days of the late seventies when the nation came to a standstill to watch them complete the remarkable feat of winning the Aga Khan three years in a row," he said.

Owen Brennan, executive chairman of Devenish Nutrition, spoke of the team effort the riders displayed in winning the three-in-a-row.

"The achievement by the riders of three Aga Khan successes in a row speaks of their ability, commitment and a real team effort," he said.

"It is this team effort that is key to success across sport and business. Success is something that should be celebrated, and we're delighted to be here and to have been able to support such a fantastic event," he continued.

Meath will be represented by Cian O'Connor on today's Irish Aga Khan team that includes an international debut for Ardee's Mark McAuley, with Denis Lynch and Bertram Allen.

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