As the Ploughing Championships bid goodbye to Ratheniska, Co Laois, and head next door to Co Offaly and Tullamore in 2016, organisers can look back with satisfaction on last week’s record-breaking 281,000 attendance.
Harvest delays didn’t affect the attendance from all over Ireland — including an estimated 400 bus-loads, mostly of students — and there were many present also from Britain and other EU member states.
Tullamore is the next stop for the fully serviced Ploughing “town” and its 1,500 trade exhibits in pavilions, arcades and stand-alone sites, all linked with 25km of trackway consisting of nearly 10,000 individual panels.
Supplying electricity to the site requires 50,000km of cable and 10 generators, creating enough power for a town of about 8,000 people.
Some 7,000 panels are needed to provide 14 km of fencing.
It took 2,363 staff, volunteers judges and stewards to stage last week’s event.
Some 800 cattle, sheep and pigs were entered in various livestock classes, and they required about 300 round bales of straw, 100 bales of hay, and seven tonnes of feed over the three days — along with an Irish Aviation Authority ban on any of the estimated 4,000 remotely operated pilot system (drones) in use in Ireland, partly because they might frighten the livestock.
The President, Michael D Higgins, performed the official opening at noon on Tuesday, and immediately went to see the horse ploughing, after his words of praise for Ireland’s farming families, the “bedrock of our rural communities”.
“They are the ones who drive the rural economy, who build and maintain our rural organisations and institutions, and it is they who act as custodians for our rural heritage and landscape”.
He said he was aware of the many challenges facing family farmers, including extreme unpredictability in prices and, for dairy farmers, a milk price fall of 30% in the past two years.
“We should never forget the significant and profound role that farming plays in our society, one that must never be reduced to that which the market allows it.
“Our farmers are keeping alive the endangered language of interconnections between man and nature, which carries within it the knowledge to ensure food security.”
Last week marked another job well done by Managing Director of the National Ploughing Association, Mrs Anna May McHugh (a native of Ballylinan, Co Laois, only 12 miles from the Ratheniska site of the last three years), and her team.
She confirmed that the 85th National Ploughing Championships will take place at Screggan, Tullamore, Co Offaly, September 20-22, 2016. This site is about 28 miles to the northwest of Ratheniska.
The ploughing competitors at the centre of last week’s event were happy also, saying the texture of the Ratheniska soil was very suitable for ploughing after the rainfall of the previous week-end.
Eamonn Tracey from Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, secured his 10th national title last week in the senior conventional class, ahead of his trip to the World Ploughing Contest later this week in Denmark, where he will defend the world championship he won in France 12 months ago.
He has represented Ireland internationally nine times, and won world silver and bronze medals before last year’s gold.
The many Co Cork visitors to the ploughing plots at last week’s Championships were encouraged by the showings of Ger Coakley, Clonakilty, and Liam O’Driscoll, Bandon.
With youth on their side, they are on course to represent Ireland in the years ahead.
1. Jer Coakley, Cork West. 2. Dermot Ryan, Offaly. 3. Daniel O’Dwyer, Kilkenny.
1. Frank Cullen, Wexford. 2. Kevin Egan, Offaly. 3. Jarlath Colleran, Mayo.
1. Kieran Coakley, Cork West. 2. Sean Monaghan, Longford. 3.Tony McGrath, Kilkenny.
1. Edward Forristal, Kilkenny. 2. Kevin O’Riordan, Cork West. 3. Thomas Ryan, Tipperary South.
1.Tommy McCarthy, Kerry. 2. Colin Ruttle, Limerick. 3.Michael Wycherley, Cork West.
1. Kevin O’ Driscoll, Cork West. 2. Michael Lenihan, Cork East. 3. DJ McHugh, Laois.
1. Padraig Brandon, Laois. 2. Pat Furlong, Wexford. 3. Richard Keegan, Carlow.
1. David King, Louth. 2. Jeremiah Delaney, Cork East. 3.Gearoid McCarthy, Cork West.
1. Aeneas Horan, Kerry. 2. Bobby Owen, Kildare. 3. Bertie Murray, Carlow.
1. Joanne Deery, Monaghan. 2. Sarah Banville, Wexford. 3. Laura Grant, Offaly.
1. Stephen Reynolds, Longford. 2. William Kehoe, Wexford. 3.Gerard Mahon, Offaly.
1. Eamonn Tracey, Carlow. 2. Kieran Coakley, Cork West. 3. Barry Kent, Wexford.
1. Gerry King, Louth. 2. Gerard Reilly, Galway. 3. JJ Delaney, Cork East.
1. John Whelan, Wexford. 2. Jer Coakley, Cork West. 3. Liam O’ Driscoll, Cork West.
1. John McBryde, Offaly. 2. Joe Kelly, Galway. 3. Alan Simms, Donegal.
1. Eamonn Tracey, Carlow, 482pts. 2. Martin Kehoe, Wexford, 459. 3. Kieran Coakley, Cork West, 443.
1. Gerard King, Louth. 2. James Kilgariffe, Galway. 3. Jeremiah Delaney, Cork East.
1. Niall Twomey, Cork East. 2. Dan Hurley, Cork West. 3. Noel Byrne, Wexford.
1. PJ Hartley, Kilkenny. 2. John Murphy, Carlow. 3. Aidan Higgins, Galway.
1. Lee Simms, Donegal. 2. Lorcan Bergin, Tipperary South.
1. Eoin Buttle, Dublin. 2. Bruno McCormack, Meath. 3.Trevor Fleming, Cork East.
1. Michael John Dillane, Limerick. 2. Thomas Monaghan, Longford. 3. Michael P Donegan, Kerry.
1. John Whelan, Wexford. 2. Jer Coakley, Cork West. 3. Liam O’Driscoll, Cork West.