A new generation blooms at stunning show

Gene O'Riordan, Ballincollig, with her granddaughter Amy O'Riordan and her pony Ballyburden Shadow all set to compete in the 128cm showjumping class at Cork Summer Show this weekend.

Organised by the Munster Agricultural Society, the 173rd Cork Summer Show kicks off tomorrow, Friday, at Curraheen, Cork, and runs until Sunday.

One of the oldest agricultural shows in the country, the event annually attracts more than 25,000 visitors. Over the three days, events include showing classes for horses, sheep, goats, poultry, and cattle, a display of rare breeds, pony club games, carriage driving and an international farriery competition. The IKC Open All Breed Pedigree Dog Show and the Cork Summer Show Pet Dog Competition will also take place.

Up to 2008, the show was held at the Munster Agricultural Society grounds in Ballintemple, having earlier been located in Cornmarket Street, Anglesea Street, and Cork Racetrack.

Since 2012, the show has taken place at Curraheen. Wherever the show was held, one woman was always at the helm of the horticultural competitions. Gene O’Riordan from Ballyburden, Ballincollig, has been involved in the show for more than 40 years.

She was chairperson of the horticulture section last year, and while she is taking a break this year, she will attend this weekend to cheer on her grandchildren taking part in pony jumping. A keen horticulturalist, she is also looking forward to travelling to Dublin shortly to see the displays at the World Flower Show.

There is a new generation taking part in the show now, are you looking forward to seeing your grandchildren in action?

My granddaughter Amy O’Riordan is nine and has qualified in pony jumping for this year’s Cork Summer Show, and my other three grandchildren, Jack and Danny Lucey who are brothers, and their sister Roisin, will also be taking part in the pony competitions. Jack is eight and Danny is 11. Roisin is six, and has only taken it up recently, but she’s doing great at it, and there is great excitement ahead of the competitions on Friday.

Their grandfather Denis was training them here. He is an ex-Cork hurler, and has always had a great interest in horses. He was delighted just to be getting them ready, and qualifying was a big deal, so if they win a rosette or a cup, he’ll be thrilled.

Your own children also took part down through the years in the show, following in your footsteps with their interest in horticulture?

I’ve competed every year for as long as I can remember, over 40 years, and I have great memories of the children collecting their bits and pieces for the flower competitions. I won a few first prizes over the years myself, and of course, if you didn’t come first, you would disagree with the judges! Now the grandchildren come into me with their rosettes from various competitions, and they are delighted. Amy has taken part in horticulture competitions and I was training her how to cut camellias last year. Gillian, my youngest daughter, created a miniature garden one year, using wild flowers. It was a great competition, and hopefully it might come back next year. Franc [Peter Kelly] is involved this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing his flower displays. I’m sure he will do something spectacular. He has wonderful ideas.

The horticulture always makes the show a bit glamourous. I’ve seven children, six girls and one boy, and they are all keen on gardening. And when they were taking part in the jumping over the years, my own legs would be lifting a little bit with every jump. To qualify is the big thing really, and it really is great fun.

After decades of involvement, you must have great memories from shows over the years?

It was super. We would be getting ready for weeks. I remember going with my mother, we would go to Cold Storage on the South Mall for an ice cream, and then walk down to the showgrounds. It was lovely down there, and we always thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a wonderful event to meet neighbours and friends. It has changed over the years, but we have to move with the times. There was always great camaraderie between all the volunteers and it is wonderful that the show is continuing to progress. New ideas and new faces are always needed, but older people are still very much there in the background with advice.

It is a new-look show this year, are you looking forward to seeing the changes?

I love to see progress, and I look forward to the music and entertainment at the show. I will be curious to see what Franc offers too, I’m sure it will be something amazing. I have been following the weather on the internet, and it doesn’t look too bad.

Hopefully we will have an indoor space in the future, as we have no control over the elements.

But it is always a wonderful show and it creates wonderful memories.


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