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Friday 9 December 2016

Kiwi record holders will be star attraction in Kilkenny

Brothers favourites for top prize at championships but face stiff competition from Irish shearers

Published 31/05/2011 | 05:00

Three shearing world record holders -- all brothers -- are among the star attractions at next week's Clik All-Ireland Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Kilkenny.

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New Zealanders Doug, Rowland and Matthew Smith have already been installed as favourites to take the the Clik Irish International title on their first visit to Ireland.

Doug and Rowland are the current world record holders for 'two-stand' shearing, having shorn 1,066 sheep in eight hours in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, in January. They beat the previous record of 986, which had stood for 11 years.

Doug's shearing tally was 504 and his brother accounted for 562, so their combined total beat the old record by 80 sheep. Doug's total in each session was 127, 129, 126 and 122, while Rowland's score was 141, 142, 140 and 139.

The pair's remarkable win came after Rowland was forced out of the 2009-2010 shearing season due to an unexplained back injury.

"Shearing rams one day, just woke up the next day sore, could hardly walk, and it just didn't go away," said Rowland.

At one stage, surgery was in the offing, but Rowland overcame the injury with the help of a sports medic, and later a triathlon trainer, as he prepared for January's record.

Not to be outdone, their brother Matthew set a world record for solo shearing last year when he accounted for 578 sheep in an officially timed session in Waitara, New Zealand.

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Confirming that all three brothers would be competing in Kilkenny on June 5-6, George Graham, of the Irish Sheep Shearers' Association, said it was a great opportunity to see the world's top shearers in action.

However, the Kiwis will face stiff competition from leading Irish and international shearers, including the current champion, Ivan Scott from Donegal, and former champion Hamish Mitchell from Scotland.

Other elite Irish shearers include George Graham from Wexford, winner of the Irish International Plate last year, Tom Kennedy from Galway, Andrew Corrigan from Kildare and John Quigley from Tipperary.

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Contenders from Northern Ireland include Willie Jones, John Buchanan and Ian Montgomery, all from Antrim, and Kieran McCullough from Down.

Wales will be strongly represented this year by champions Nicky Benyon, Hywel Jones and Gareth Daniels, and entries are also expected from Scotland, England and Australia.

Another star attraction at the championships will be the current World Champion Woolhandler, Bronwen Tango, from Usk, Monmouthshire, Wales.

She won the title at the Royal Welsh Show in Meirion last year when defeating the reigning world champion, New Zealand's Sheree Alabaster, in the final.

A shepherdess by trade, she is a regular competitor on the international circuit and has won several titles using the skills and speed honed by wrapping up to 1,000 fleeces during a day's work in the shearing season. She will be competing in Kilkenny against top woolhandlers from the UK, Australia and New Zealand who are expected in Ireland for the event.

With a very busy programme of competitions scheduled during the two days, the championships are expected to attract 15,000 visitors to Cillin Hill, Kilkenny, to see the top shearers from home and abroad competing for a series of national and international titles.

This year, all the national competitions will he held on Saturday, including the All-Ireland Junior, Intermediate, Senior, Hand Shearing and Open events, as well as the Co Kilkenny Confined championship.

The All-Ireland Wool Handling and the All Nations Wool Handling championships will also be held on Saturday afternoon.

All the International competitions will be held on Sunday, including the Junior, Intermediate, Senior and Hand Shearing competitions, culminating in the major event, the Clik Irish International Open.

New events this year include a Development Test between teams from Ireland and Scotland and a Hand Shearing Test between Ireland and Wales.

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