THE brolly-free national ploughing championships, which attracted overall attendances of almost 190,000 people over three days, ended in Athy last evening.
But it will be back to the Co Kildare town next year for the event which will incorporate the 2010 European reversible ploughing contest.
Thirty competitors from 15 countries will take part in the Europeans, hosted by the National Ploughing Association (NPA).
It will be the first time for the reversible championships to be held in the Republic of Ireland. This year’s venue was Zabreh in the Czech Republic.
Delegations from each of the participating countries will travel to Ireland for the event.
Fine weather this week added to the success of the national championships which were held on the 300-acre Fennin farm on the town outskirts with another 300 acres provided for car parking by adjoining landowners.
The traffic management plan put in place by gardaí was a textbook operation with delays for motorists kept to the minimum. The estimated attendance yesterday was 60,000.
An indication of the traffic flow was that 200 vehicles entered one car park every 15 minutes over a four-hour period on Wednesday. A total of 224 buses were used on the second day to bring people to the event.
Garda aerial and mounted units, supported by 500 NPA stewards from around the country, also took part in the huge logistical operation of getting thousands of vehicles on and off the site on each day.
Fine weather added to the enjoyment of the crowds who had no need for Wellingtons, umbrellas or raincoats.
It also ensured that ground conditions for the €3.5 million event, were excellent with easy movement between the 1,000 trade stands and other attractions.
NPA managing director Anna May McHugh, who earlier welcomed Taoiseach Brian Cowen, said she was very happy with the turnout at the event which was “a release valve” for people in the present climate.
The site was centrally located and there was an excellent buzz and atmosphere about.
Mrs McHugh paid tribute to the gardaí under Supt John Murphy and all who had contributed to the success achieved.
This year’s ploughing took place a mere six kilometres from her home in Athy, where the first championships were held in 1931.
She said she thought the Taoiseach was generally well received by the crowd and that the protest that took place involved a very small number in the overall picture.
Meanwhile, Eleanor Kehoe, the new Queen of the Plough, a teacher from Foulksmills, Co Wexford, and a member of a remarkable competitive ploughing family, was the toast of the ploughing plots.
Her father, Martin Kehoe, is the former three-times world champion, who won 12 national championships in a row and has 13 titles in all.
Eleanor’s two sisters, Michelle and Christine, are former winners of the Queen of the Plough, a title that goes with the winner of the so-called farmerette competition.
Her brothers, Willie John and Martin, are also successful ploughing competitors having won national titles. They were also in action yesterday as places on Ireland’s team for next April’s world contest in New Zealand were decided.
Eleanor, who was coached by her father, Martin, said winning the Queen of the Plough competition at her first attempt was great. “It is only sinking in now,” she said.
Toby Moreland, a rugby scrum half from New Zealand, who has just joined the Munster panel and paid a visit to the event with his new colleagues John “The Bull” Hayes and Donncha Ryan.
IRELAND will be represented at the world ploughing contest in New Zealand next April by two competitors from Wexford and Cork.
Willie John Kehoe, Foulksmills, Co Wexford, and Liam O’Driscoll, Bandon, Co Cork, will respectively compete in the conventional and reversible categories.
They qualified for the team as a result of winning their respective national titles at Athy, Co Kildare, yesterday.
Senior Tractor: Willie John Kehoe, Wexford.
Senior Reversible: Liam O’Driscoll, Cork West.
Farmerette: Eleanor Kehoe, Wexford.
Junior Two Furrow Tractor: Noel Howley, Tipperary South.
Senior Horse: Gerry King, Louth.
Furrow Vintage Mounted: Liam Hamilton, Wicklow.
Intermediate Conventional: Pat Brandon, Laois.
Under 28 Reversible: Jer Coakley, Cork West.
Two Furrow Vintage Trailer: Willie Murphy, Wexford.
Under 21 Trailer Junior: Sean Monaghan, Longford.
Under 21 Tractor Senior: Kieran Coakley, Cork West.
Under 28 Tractor Junior: Derek O’Driscoll, Kerry.
Under 28 Tractor Senior: Barry Kent, Wexford.
Under 40 Horse: David King, Louth.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved