Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 22 May 2017

Farming faithful told to welly-up for championships

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

WITH the weather forecasters predicting sporadic showers but not a washout, "wear your wellies" was the advice for visitors heading to this year's National Ploughing Championships.

Miserable weather had threatened to rain on the colourful championships' parade in Athy, Co Kildare, yesterday -- but the punters weren't put off.

The Churchtown Pipe Band led a parade through the small town to welcome thousands of visitors -- and to mark the 80th championship. Skies were dull but the rain held off for the opening ceremony.

Around 180,000 people will descend on Athy today, tomorrow and on Thursday.

However, with a name for traffic congestion on its narrow streets already, an influx of thousands of cars will see the road situation exacerbated.

In order to curb any prospective hold-ups, a major garda traffic plan has been put in place, designated car parks are signposted and visitors are being encouraged to take public transport where possible.

Shuttle buses are also running from Athy train station and the town centre to the site at Cardenton throughout the day.

Anyone who is not travelling to the ploughing is advised to completely avoid the Athy area.

The €20 one-day ticket price for adults has not put off the farmers, with the website crashing several times yesterday because of the high volume of traffic it was experiencing.

"I would have to say we've had more interest than ever," said managing director of the National Ploughing Association (NPA) Anna May McHugh.

Students are being offered tickets at the discounted price of €10 if they buy them off the website, www.npa.ie.

Some 1,100 exhibitors have set-up in Cardenton for the annual agricultural spectacular. And with so much to see -- from sheep shearing and pony games to fashion shows -- it would be easy to forget the main reason for the event: the ploughing itself.

Judging

NPA assistant managing director Michael Mahon will watch his three children compete in ploughing competitions tomorrow. His sons Justin (34) and Brian (27), and his daughter Nollaig (26) are all taking part in conventional ploughing events.

Mr Mahon, who is now retired from taking part himself, will be a judge in the world contest today.

"I won't be judging the events with my own family taking part, as you can imagine, but I'll be a judge for the world ploughing contest," he laughed.

The father from Blueball near Tullamore, Co Offaly, was out marking the plots at Cardenton yesterday.

"The ground is looking very good, the site is one of the best we have seen. Wexford will have to be good next year to beat it," he said.

Martin Kehoe from Wexford, who came out of retirement for the world ploughing contest, is one of the favourites to win today's event.

Sean Keating, also from Wexford, is also being billed as "one to keep an eye on".

Presidential candidates will be using the opening day of the championships to speak on their candidacy.

Irish Independent