THE spirit behind Kilkenny’s famous All-Ireland hurling victories and the vision of those who organise the National Ploughing Championships came together in Ratheniska yesterday.
Both national events have a common requirement for participants and spectators — buckets of stamina and a focused approach.
Thousands of people again flocked to the final day of the rural pageant and many of them paid homage to the enduring triumphs of the Kilkenny hurlers and the National Ploughing Association headed by Anna May McHugh.
Even the European commissioner for agriculture and rural development, Phil Hogan, a Kilkenny man, seems to have adopted the ball-passing skills of what is now regarded as the greatest ever hurling side.
He was asked some questions about Irish Water at an early morning press briefing in the European Commission pavilion issue and quickly replied with the agility of an experienced hurler.
“You will have to ask the minister for the environment,” he said.
Among the commissioner’s ports of call was the Glanbia stand where Kilkenny hurler Jackie Tyrrell, who did not play in the huring final against Galway due to injury but was on the team panel, was still the focus of much attention.
His half time pep talk to the Kilkenny players in the dressing room is widely credited with having lifted Kilkenny to a matchwinning second-half performance in this year’s final against Galway.
He told interviewer Kieran O’Connor on the Glanbia stand that he did not win the game for Kilkenny. “I did not hit a ball. It was down to the lads, the 15 that went out and those who came on during the game.
“I just played my role as everbody else did. We are all leaders in the dressing room. I just said a few words at half time. I just spoke openly and passionately about what I believe we stood for and were not doing.
“Everyone reacted and upped their game in terms of the performances they put in”, said the corner back who now has nine All-Ireland senior hurling medals.
Jackie and another Kilkenny player Joe Lyng, who has two All-Ireland medals, are Glanbia employees and were on the food group’s stand with the Liam McCarthy Cup and other team trophies.
Families lined up to have their photographs taken with the players and the cups, all supervised by Kilkenny equipment manager Denis “Rackard” Coady.
Earlier in the day, Mr Hogan held a media briefing on some of the issues facing European agriculture during which he accepted there is a cashflow issue with the farming community not least in Ireland.
He said the Commission had introduced two measures relating to cashflow. One is a member’s state envelope of €13.7m for Ireland where the minister for agriculture has an opportunity to add to it if he so wishes.
The other is the decision to bring forward up to 70% of the advance payments for the farming community. “You will see this particular opportunity being grasped by farmers here at the ploughing championships in terms of interest in buying equipment and buying machinery. They see this as an opportunity to invest again,” he said.
A ploughing version of a parade of sail was also held when 10 tractor competitors travelled to the ploughing plots. But old habits, like staging successful ploughing championships and winning All- Irelands, die hard in some parts of rural Ireland because waiting to provide moral support for world champion Eamon Treacy were two nuns. Perhaps they also prayed for the ploughing and the hurlers.
Meanwhile, Bulbs, a poem by Paddy Moran, a 65-year-old retired teacher of English from Templetuohy, Co Tipperary, was voted as the favourite poem in a competition held at the championships by the Catholic Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. It came ahead of works by Seamus Heaney and Patrick Kavanagh.
Bishop Denis Nulty, who announced the result, said he was bowled over at the response and by the amount of entries which was more than 1,000. He said he was surprised that a living poet was the people’s favourite and that the runner-up was also a living poet, the only woman in the competition, Verona Pentony from Co Dublin.
Mr Moran, who has a third collection of poetry out next month, said he was thrilled to win. “I have great time for the work of Seamus Heaney in particular, and I was flattered to have even made the shortlist,” he said.
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