And the best Irish farmers — whether ploughmen, livestock, bloodstock or tillage farmers — are up there with the best in the world.
Now Eamonn Tracey from Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, has become a two-in-a-row world conventional ploughing champion, after winning last week’s world ploughing contest in Vestbo, Denmark.
It’s quite an achievement for little Ireland, coming out on top of 27 countries, with Whelan closely pursued by competitors from Scotland, Denmark, and the USA.
Back in eighth place was Samuel Gill, representing Northern Ireland.
That was the main competition in Vestbo, the other was for reversible ploughing, in which John Whelan from Ballycullane, Co Wexford, was the runner-up from 30 competitors. Thomas Cochrane from Northern Ireland was placed seventh.
Remarkably, Tracey and Whelan filled the same two positions in the 2014 world ploughing contest, in Bordeaux, France — unbeatable consistency.
In 2013 in Canada, John Whelan had won the reversible competition. The year before, in Croatia, Eamonn Tracey was the world conventional ploughing runner-up.
For consistency and longevity, his father, John Tracey is heard to beat.
He was the conventional runner-up in Slovenia in 2009, in the Czech Republic in 2005; in Switzerland in 2002; in New Zealand in 1980; in Finland in 1974, and in 1973 when the world contest was held in Co Wexford. And in the senior conventional test match at the National Ploughing Championships two weeks ago, he finished fourth, behind his son, Eamonn.
The first Irish ploughing world champ was Co Wicklow’s Charlie Keegan, who won in Finland in 1964.
Co Wexford’s Martin Kehoe (also from Ballycullane) really put Ireland on the world ploughing map, winning three world titles in the 1990s.
Northern Ireland too is recognised across the ploughing world, for producing seven world champions, who won the world title on 10 occasions — which is second only to Austria in the all-time list.
All the Irish wins are the result of extremely hard work; there are no flukes in competition ploughing, which demands as much concentration, steadiness, and initiative as any world championship activity — and coaching, provided in Denmark last week by Joe Slattery from Co Tipperary.
They provide more proof that when rural Ireland gets its chance on the world scene, we have no shortage of world-beating performers.