A traffic problem at New Ross in September was just one of the factors in the National Ploughing Championships move to a midlands venue for 2013.
Along with road structure and accessibility, accommodation and availability of farmland for parking and ploughing scored high in deciding Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co Laois, as the 2013 venue.
It is near the N80 from Portlaoise to Carlow, and the M7 from the southwest to Dublin.
It is about 19 km from Athy, where the championships went ahead successfully in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
The National Ploughing Association (NPA) said a number of sites were in the running, but the event goes to Co Laois for the fifth time, on Sept 24, 25, and 26, 2013.
Tillage farmer David Carter and his family are the main landowners involved, but at least 15 of their neighbours will also provide some of the 700 acres required for the event.
The trade arena will cover up to 100 acres of the Carter farm, and 50 fresh acres are needed for each day of ploughing.
Mr Carter is a tillage farmer (with drystock in the winter also), but his land will be laid down with grass for the next year. Silage may be cut next summer, and it could be grazed by sheep. The surrounding farmers will continue to grow cereals as per usual but, in the weeks before the match, the National Ploughing Association will move in and mark out their fields for car parking.
From Aug 1, work on the Carter land gets under way with the laying of roads.
* The Championships bring €40 million of economic activity to the site area. Are more locations than ever vying to be hosts? Is any area favoured during the next few years?
>> An Economic Impact Study in 2011 showed that the ploughing had economic impact of €36m spread throughout the country, with the biggest proportion in the immediate event area.
In recent years, the proposals coming from various counties would often come with quite strong county council and political backing, as well as tourist authority support.
This event has become a very lucrative opportunity for a county, as it has the potential to give a great financial injection through accommodation and food providers, hardware suppliers, local machinery contractors, fencing contractors, petrol stations, supermarkets and much more.
Other counties being considered for the event in the near future include Carlow, Dublin, Offaly, and Tipperary.
* How far is Ratheniska from the surrounding main roads, and from Stradbally?
>> The ploughing venue is on the R427, about 5km from Stradbally on the Abbeyleix road. It is situated between the M9 and M7 (5 km away) motorways, and between the N77, N78 and N80. The local towns of Portlaoise and Athy are serviced regularly by rail and bus networks, giving ploughing visitors an attractive alternative to driving. The site is 8km from Portlaoise, 16km from Abbeyleix.
* About 30,000 attend the Electric Picnic weekend at Stradbally. Will experience with this event help the Garda in traffic management?
>> Absolutely. Experience of traffic management at any big event is hugely advantageous to planning, and we are very fortunate that the Electric Picnic venue is 2km from the ploughing site. Electric Picnic traffic management went without a hitch this year, and the same traffic team will be co-ordinating Ploughing traffic. They also have vast experience from the ploughing in Athy, when they coordinated access for all the Munster and western traffic.
* What is the accommodation mix within travelling distance of the site?
>> You can reach many midlands towns within an hour. You would be at Newlands Cross, Dublin in 50 minutes, Tullamore in about 40 minutes, Kilkenny in 45 minutes, Carlow in 20 minutes, Naas in 30 minutes.
* What will be the accommodation headquarters for the NPA?
>> NPA event headquarters will be the Heritage Hotel, Portlaoise. We will also use the Clanard Court Hotel, Athy, and a number of rooms in the Abbeyleix Manor, Abbeyleix, and the Heritage Golf and Spa Resort, Killenard.
Hotels in Carlow, Kilkenny, Naas and Tullamore are offering very attractive accommodation rates, and the NPA advises patrons to be very vigilant, because we are aware of some of hotels in the Portlaoise area quoting very high prices.
* The NPA is in the running to take on the secretary role in the World Ploughing Organisation. What does that involve?
>> The role would involve coordinating all correspondence between the 31 affiliated countries to the WPO, and liaising very intensively with the host country for at least two years prior a world contest, to ensure that all aspects of the 10-day programme are organised correctly.
It involves ensuring that the world programme runs smoothly every year, especially the two meetings of the world board.
It would be a very challenging position that would require an additional full-time member of staff in the NPA.
However, the executive of the NPA feel that it would be a great opportunity, giving our association an insight into the workings of the world association and firsthand knowledge of any developments going forward.
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