Crowds brave deluge for fun day with free stuff and 'yer man on TV'
CELEBRITIES and free stuff were the most hotly prized commodities at the Ploughing yesterday.
Take 74,000 people on a day out, compress them into a temporary tented town, add a generous sprinkle of roving camera crews and you have the perfect recipe for contagious excitement.
Sports stars, politicians and celebrity chefs, anyone who was anyone could be guaranteed to generate a noisy buzz as onlookers rushed to see who it was that everybody else was rushing to see.
Even RTE weatherman Gerry Murphy was engulfed by a 20-deep ring of craning onlookers when he did a simple weather update on camera in the main thoroughfare, one eager voyeur declaring she had no idea of his name, "but he's on the telly".
Munster and Ireland rugby hero Paul O'Connell, meanwhile, was the big draw in the National Dairy Council tent.
It wasn't just the boys who were queueing up for an autograph, scarcely a teenage girl passed on the chance to have her picture taken with the sporting giant -- in fact there were so many that he had to take them two at a time, and still he never stopped smiling.
And while Kilkenny hurlers may have been vanquished for once this year, it didn't stop them attracting the crowds to the Avonmore milk bar, while hundreds also thronged to see high-profile chef Nevin Maguire and broadcasting star Marty Whelan, now of Lyric FM.
Politicians, meanwhile, failed to generate quite the same intensity as the showbiz celebs, though ministers Brendan Smith and Pat Carey still had ample opportunities to meet and greet the punters.