Ratheniska ready for Ploughing fans

Donal McCarthy, from Rosscarbery, Co Cork, with his horses Penny and Sally at the agricultural open day at the ancestral home of HenryForde at Ballinascarthy, Co Cork. Picture: Denis Boyle

The 800-acre site for the three-day national ploughing championships, which begin at Ratheniska, Co Laois, tomorrow is ready to host Europe’s largest outdoor agricultural event.

And with a mixture of mixed weather forecast for the coming days, the sprawling venue is said to be in great condition to accommodate visitors and ploughing competitors alike.

Last year, a record 279,500 people, which was 51,500 more than the pevious year, attended the championships that were first held in Athy, Co Kildare, in 1931.

This will be the third successive year the event is being staged on same site in Rathenisla which is centrally located with good access roads.

President Michael D Higgins will officially open the championships. Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other political leaders will attend.

Members of the Diplomatic Corps including Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Browne, and the ambassadors of Britain, Dominick Chilcott, the US, Kevin O’Malley, and France, Jean Pierre Thebault, are also expected to attend.

Exhibitors from Britain, Germany, New Zealand, France, Netherlands, and the US, as well as visiting delegations from China, Austria, Spain, and South Africa, will be present.

Some 350 competitors from all over Irelnad will take part in the contests.

National Ploughing Association managing director Anna May McHugh said the championships provides a national stage for showcasing all things agricultural.

However, it also brings together people from all sectors of Irish society both rural and urban, to enjoy three days immersed in country living.

“Many visitors to the event take the three days out in late September to have a well-earned break from their daily working lives, particularly following one of the busiest times in the farming calendar, the harvest,” said Ms McHugh.

The event will cost more than €4m to stage and is worth an estimated €40m to the region’s economy.

Gardaí are confident that with the co-operation and patience of motorists, the traffic management plan they have prepared will run as successfully as it has done over the past two years.

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