For a change this year, the finals was played in Phoenix Park, home of the All Ireland Polo Club and one of the oldest Polo grounds in Europe. The Four Nation fundraising event was held in aid of Teen Line, a charity that is committed to helping improve the social and emotional health and wellbeing of all young people, regardless of race, religion or sexuality by providing them with a friendly, confidential, non-judgemental helpline and support service.
Teams of ladies from South Africa, the USA, and for the very first time Saudi Arabia, with their Irish hosts, gathered on Friday for the semi-finals in Wicklow to start proceedings in the most perfect conditions on the grounds of Ballyhenry. In the glorious evening, the two matches played provided a great spectacle. As the visiting players became familiar with their horses, both games picked up speed, but a predictable result produced a good win for Audi Centre’s Ireland team against Tinakilly House Hotel’s Saudi Arabian team for the Sunday Final. Next up was the second semi-final between House’s South African Team and Primark’s USA Team. In a close contest, USA took advantage of knowing the ponies and fields to beat South Africa and take the last spot in the final.
For the first time in ten years, the finals was played in Dublin at the AIPC grounds. USA’s Captain Liz Brayboy, Livi Alderman, Sinead Devine, Louisa Donovan, and fifth player (playing one chukka) and USA team veteran Eileen Flint were totally fired up for the confrontation. Ireland’s Captain Siobhan Herbst, Sophie Patton, Jeanine Menendez, Derville Meade, and Elaine Monahan (sharing a position) resplendent in the colors of Audi Centre and determined to triumph.
Despite the 1 1/2 goals to USA, the Irish team could not penetrate the defensive play of Louisa and Eileen. The more the Irish Audi team pushed, the more resistance they had to deal with. Half time team talks breathed new life into the Irish players, coming in with a calmer, more organized plan of attack. The USA players were taken unaware and a converted foul did the trick. Ireland was on a roll and USA could not touch them—taking five goals on the trot with only one finding the goal for USA. A hard match agreed with both captains, with a scoreline of 5 to 2 1/2 to Ireland.
With the weather deteriorating, the South African team faced Saudi Arabia for the Subsidiary finals. Two teams who had travelled a great distance and away from beautiful sunshine had to contend with a very damp August Irish summer day.
Despite the weather closing in the Saudi Arabian team, captain Melonie Deasy lead her team of Julie Kavanagh, Chloe Stebban, Emily Beere, and Wendy Quinlan (sharing a position) to face South Africa’s Anne Bicard, Kayla Swart, Alida Vermaak, and Courtney Soal.
Certainly, the weather played its part, but the two teams battled for every shot. The match became more and more defensive, but every chukka produced some magic. South Africa’s team claimed victory by 3 1/2 to 3 after four fierce chukkas.
The winning team is Audi Centre Ireland, with Sophie Patton, Jeanine Menendez, Siobhan Herbst, Derville Meade, and Elaine Monahan.