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Sunday 11 December 2016

Ain't no mountain high enough

Ken Whelan

Published 13/05/2015 | 02:30

Host farmer Samuel Coleman and local ploughman Mikey Lynch at the Cavan Ploughing Championship which was held at Mountain Lodge last week. Photo: Alex Coleman
Host farmer Samuel Coleman and local ploughman Mikey Lynch at the Cavan Ploughing Championship which was held at Mountain Lodge last week. Photo: Alex Coleman
Bruno McCormack from Athboy in action in the vintage single furrow mounted class. Photo: Alex Coleman

County ploughing championships are not for the faint-hearted especially when you have to drive in vertical mode to the second highest ploughing site in the country.

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But no bother for the 70 or so competitors ploughing for county glory at 'See-All' - the name given locally to the hilltop lands of Samuel Coleman and Sean Lee at Mountain Lodge near Cootehill - which hosted the 34th year of the Cavan championships last week.

The site, from where locals say you can see five counties on a clear day (but they don't mention the binoculars), is perched way above the Lough Acanon reservoir which stores H2O for the good people of Cavan town.

The site was perfectly presented and marked out, despite having endured a two-day deluge ahead of the meeting. The underfoot conditions, though, were - as they also say in Cavan - "only ogeous".

But, to borrow a line from soul singer Diana Ross, there ain't no mountain high (or wet) enough to stop determined ploughmen in their tracks.

The ploughing field was packed with Masseys and David Browns and some very undistinguished tractor-like contraptions which probably saw their best years during the Emergency. But whether the vehicles were young or old made little difference to the ploughmen and women - who also just happened to be of varied vintage.

The ploughing, across 20ac, was slow given the conditions and could not have been helped by the concentration-sapping whoosh of a nearby clutch of wind turbines.

How the competitors were able to keep their ploughing straight with all the racket in the background one can only imagine. But some did.

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One middle-aged ploughman spent his entire afternoon jumping on an off his David Brown adjusting and re-adjusting his plough with all manner of spanners in what looked like just pure pernicketyness. However, you couldn't argue with the cut of the furrows.

The same could not be said for all the competitors. One did an equal amount of stopping and adjusting but - whether it was his spanners, his eye or the lie of the land - his ploughing could only be compared to Fianna Fáil in the run-up to a general election - it veered left, right and centre. In fact, it was the sort of ploughing that would give you a pain in the head.

However, this is not a reflection on the day's efforts overall. Despite its superabundance of drumlins and lakes, Cavan regularly produces champion ploughmen and women - though not always of the powered variety.

Loy diggers

The county's loy diggers, Kathleen Reilly, Thomas Tierney and PJ McStay were in the silverware at Ratheniska last year, and much is now expected of Jim Vogan, Andrew Tully and David Fannon, for this year's overall national junior title.

But, as most know, ploughing matches are not all about ploughing. The outer field was what anyone would expect at a rural fair, with vendors selling everything from lumberjack shirts (three for €10) to huge volumes of Delux weather shield and all sorts of tractor attachments.

Galetech Developments of Stradone, whose wind turbines provided the background whooshing, and Ballinagh Furniture were the main sponsors. But it was the refreshment marquee with its country music which proved the main attraction.

I must say I enjoyed the day but when the tannoy blared out Charlie Pride's 'Behind Closed Doors' for the third time I began to go lumpy. It was time to descend for a few libations.

But not before a final drama; our automobile sank to the axle in the car park field. Disaster, I thought, and me with the thirst of a camel train and my tongue lapping my boots.

But, again, this was no bother to the capable crew of the dizzy 'See All' heights. Five burly stewards, whose combined weight was heavier than our stranded Fabia, push the car clear.

The old adage, 'big men wanted for light horse work' came to mind, but I said nothing, just in case the boys took offence at being compared to small ponies and decided to fire the Fabia back over the hedge and into your man's dodgy ploughing.

And just for the record, and to give Mr Google a well-earned rest, I am told the highest country ploughing championships in Ireland are held at Roundwood, Co Wicklow.

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