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The 2nd International Polo Festival comes to Kerry

This September the world's largest polo tournament since 1991 is taking place. The venue isn't Smiths Lawn in England, an estancia outside Buenos Aires or even the hallowed turf of Phoenix Park in Dublin, but on the Dingle Peninsular on the West Coast of Ireland.

Players and polo fans from around the world are meeting at the close of the European polo season for a final polo showdown on the sands of Inch Strand. This is the second time that polo tournaments have been held at Inch and the location lends a great sense of fun to what can be a stuffy sport. Last year saw a trial run for this year's festival when 4 teams from Cork, Waterford, Loais and Limerick met for a weekend's sport and festivities.

Polo was first played in Europe in Limerick in the 1860s, but went into a decline in popularity. The sport in Ireland is undergoing a revival with five new clubs starting up in the past four years and player numbers doubling to around 200. The comparative newness of the sport here will give the teams from countries with more established polo traditions an advantage at Inch.

When the experienced international teams from the USA, India, South Africa, Hungary, France, Germany, Argentina and the UK meet us in Inch we might have to rely on our acclimatisation to rain, the cráic in Dingle and the black stuff to level the playing field!

The festival runs from 11-14 September 2003 and is being run by Inch Polo Club based out of the Inch Cafe. So far 25 international teams are attending and the entries are pouring in. Inch Polo Festival will be the largest polo event since the Polo World Cup in 1991. It is no wonder then that elements of the festival will be televised around the world and will be the subject of a Channel 4 documentary.

The festival also makes the record books for being the first polo tournament to be played on sand using international polo association 'grass' rules as opposed to 'arena sand'. The Monte Carlo tournament pits three players a team on soft sand using an inflatable ball on a field 100 yards by 60 yards.

Things are altogether much more dramatic at Inch, four player teams will be playing on hard sand, with a hard ball on fields 300 yards long by however far out the tide is. As ponies gallop at full speed, the ball can be hit at over 90 miles per hour and travel over 100 yards.

With the soft sand by the dunes acting as one boundary and the sea as the other, ponies running into touch could be in for a cold shock! Unlike polo on grass, spectators will not be required to tread in diverts during the breaks between chukkas. If a field gets too marked by the ponies, the goal posts will just get moved along the beach to the next strip of virgin sand and the tide will prepare the ground for the next day's matches.

Three tournaments will be held over the four days of the festival, an international open, a ladies open and an Irish open- the Ungodly Cup - that was won by Laois last year.
Polo is one of the few team sports where women play alongside men and last year's winners matched two men and two women against all male sides!

If a company would like to sponsor one of these or an individual prize, for example, best player, best playing pony or even the best tumble, they should contact the organisers.

With over 240 polo ponies being brought to the festival, 120 players and an estimated 5000 spectators, the festival promises a great few days out but also a requirement for local support.

Many of the teams will be bringing their families for a Kerry holiday and making a week of it. The organisers are hoping that everyone in the tourism and equine trades in the region will provide their details to the organisers for inclusion on the festival's website and to give out to visitors.

It is also hoped that local businesses will support the festival by adopting teams coming to the festival. Any company sponsoring a team or event will automatically be made Inch Polo Club members and can make use of the facilities throughout the festival.

These will include a private viewing area, bar and buffet, the opportunity to design your teams colours and to organise corporate hospitality events banner advertising and trade stands.

The polo at Inch will provide tough competition for all teams attending and give spectators a unique opportunity to witness polo at its best without having to go to Smiths Lawn or Argentina. And its free!

More information on the 2nd International Inch Polo Festival is available via the website, via email or by
calling +353 22 48281.


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