“It’s good to be back” was the message communicated to the Irish Examiner by patrons attending the 41st Charleville Agricultural Show last weekend.
As thousands of people turned out to enjoy the range of events over the course of Saturday and Sunday at Pike Cross, the organising committee said it was great to be back in action after the show was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19.
Show PRO Billy Biggane said that even though the weather did not quite go in their favour, the crowd turned out in force.
While a show-jumping area, funfair, and trade stands drew their share of visitors, one of the main attractions was the cattle on show.
Prime examples of dairy and beef stock were there, with the competitors all hoping to gain a coveted Charleville Show rosette.
Washing and grooming were the order of the day as each tried to gain any advantage they could.
Well-known showman Peter O’Connell, who runs the Raceview Simmentals herd with his wife Marion in Mallow, Co Cork, has seen and done it all so many times one might think that his enthusiasm would be waning but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
He and Marion have seven grandchildren — four boys and three girls — he told the Irish Examiner. All of the grandchildren were due to be showing but unfortunately, due to Covid-19, two of them were unable to make it, despite “looking forward to this with quite a while”.
He said he is “absolutely delighted” that his grandchildren are keeping up the tradition.
“We’ve been coming here to this show for over 30 years,” Mr O’Connell said.
“I’m only going to shows now for a bit of fun and enjoy their company and hopefully they’re enjoying our company. Maybe somewhere down the line they might have an interest and have their own show cattle.”
He said it was “heaven” to be back at agricultural shows after a two-year hiatus.
“It’s like everything; you miss your buddies,” he said.
“Inside in the ring it’s competition, but outside the ring it’s all craic and a bit of ‘comradery’.
“Unfortunately, some people have parted with us too,” he said.
Mr O’Connell said that Charleville this year showed there are “some fantastic young kids coming along” and that they were “a joy to behold” when showing cattle.
“Some of them will give it up, and more of them will stick with it and sure that’s the way with everything,” he added.
It was more than 30 years ago that their first animal “that we thought was worthy of showing” was bought, Mr O’Connell said, “and we’re showing ever since”.
“We would always make a special effort to be in Charleville; we consider it our local show,” he said.
“It’s a lovely show to be at really, as are most of the shows.
“I hope that as we all move forward that in a number of years’ time we’ll all still have the pleasure of having to look at a calendar on a weekend and say ‘well, I could go to that show’.
“It would be a pity if they were lost. They’re mainly a country event and there’s huge credit due to committees up and down the country. It’s just a nice place to be and a good day out.
“Some days it rains on top of us and sure we must take that as well. It’s a joy to be here and sure look, we have the health to be here and that’s all that matters.”
Independent TD for Limerick County, Richard O’Donoghue, has come to Charleville with vintage clubs for years, but it was his first outing with a stand.
He told the Irish Examiner it’s “absolutely brilliant” to be back at shows.
“To see people walking in through here with their children, their grandparents, families, it’s fantastic,” he said.
“People have said it was their first time out in three years. That to me is huge and people need that, and they need the comfort of knowing there are people around them still that they can depend on. I can see it in their faces — they’re absolutely delighted.”
Among the crowd observing the cattle shows was Co Tipperary dairy farming duo James and Sinead O’Donnell, who said it was “great to be back out” and meeting people.
With Mr O’Donnell involved in showing pedigree Herefords “years ago”, his daughter Sinead said that “we’re always really interested in seeing them” at shows.
Meanwhile, John Coffey, who is farming in Cobh, Co Cork, was confident in his answer that the cattle are the best part of the show.
“This is my first show since Covid. It’s like old times again,” he said.
Olivia Fitzgerald from Effin in Co Limerick said she was glad to be “back meeting people and getting out socialising again”.
Among a group that was accompanying Ms Fitzgerald ringside were 10-year-olds Katie and Allie, who said they love agricultural shows, especially seeing the animals and spending time with their friends and family.