The titanic minutes of the Irish Tug of War championships in broiling Corofin on the edge of the Burren yesterday came when the two top Irish teams eventually qualified to meet in the final.
And the rope groaned when the mighty world champions from Boley in Wexford tugged once again against their perennial challengers Lakeside from Knockmore in Co Mayo. Incredible stuff.
The Chinese invented tug-o-war away back in the eighth century as a test for their warriors.They were also masters back then at inventing more subtle tortures designed to break the spirit.
The teams who came to do battle in Corofin yesterday, from the four provinces, indeed faced a battle on four ropes on the local GAA pitch. It was a different kind of sporting contest at which Corofin excels, such as the recent All Ireland Stone Throwing championships.
In the evening the men from Boley qualified to meet their Mayo rivals again. The pitch had been baked so hard by the heatwave that it was difficult for the heavily-booted warriors to “dig in” as normal but the three final pulls were aided by the fact that the sods under the ropes had been heavily tracked by the previous battles from novice right up to the 640kg senior level.
There are three separate pulls to decide any battle, only two if one team wins pulls twice in succession.
That did not happen in the grunting, amazing final tussle between the two teams clad in blue and wearing grimly determined faces. The Mayo side won the first pull after a lung-bursting battle lasting just over four minutes. Then the battlers changed ends and the Boley team, almost all of them named Kehoe, including the coach, won the second and they also, relatively easily, took the third and decisive pull to win the Irish title again.
The novice title went to the energetic Shop team from Tipperary, competing against Cluain Rithe from Mallow. The Grove team, also from Mayo, won the U25 title after an exhausting qualifying battle along the four ropes and other winners included the Co Westmeath side Streamstown who defeated Ballinasloe in their final.
There was an intriguing other kind of battle of the Boyne during the splendidly organised afternoon. Local Clare side The Burren were locked in a mammoth tussle with the Co Meath team called Boyneside and, despite all the local support, were eventually defeated by the eventual Division Two champions.
Intriguingly it was announced at the end of the evening that the two senior finalists from Wexford and Mayo will jointly be Ireland’s representatives at the upcoming world championships in South America. As the attending Mayor of Clare Joe Arkins remarked in the evening, they will be well able to cope with the heat there.
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