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Sunday 19 February 2017

Pull like dogs: O'Donovan brothers learn they were insulted by BBC

Nicola Anderson in Screggan

Published 23/09/2016 | 02:30

Paul and Gary O’Donovan at the Ploughing in Screggan, Co Offaly, yesterday. Photo: Steve
Humphreys
Paul and Gary O’Donovan at the Ploughing in Screggan, Co Offaly, yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

It's a pretty nasty affair to break it to two young, bubbly national heroes that they had been insulted by the BBC.

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It leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Irish Independent reporter Kirsty Blake Knox with a pig. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Irish Independent reporter Kirsty Blake Knox with a pig. Photo: Gerry Mooney

The feel-good factor from the Olympics in Rio spread all the way to Screggan, Co Offaly, with the arrival of the O'Donovan brothers for the final day of the National Ploughing Championships.

Driven down to the grounds in a jeep, they got a warmer reception than royalty ever would.

There were selfies in the Electric Ireland tent and hoards of even more electrified fans.

"They're the best of lads really, aren't they?" said a delighted woman after meeting the silver-medallist rowing champs.

"Oh, the finest," declared her friend.

Paul and Gary O'Donovan were there for photos and appearances. Not interview opportunities. Apparently they cost extra - and rightly so.

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But the previous day, BBC presenter Maria McErlane suggested to Graham Norton on her radio show that the O'Donovans "just kind of reinforces things about Irish people...they're very good at rowing, they weren't great at talking."

Norton - a Corkman too, as McErlane perhaps failed to realise - sprang to their defence.

Seamus and Edward Dunne (9) from Kildalkey, Co Meath, taking a break. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Seamus and Edward Dunne (9) from Kildalkey, Co Meath, taking a break. Photo: Gerry Mooney

"I thought they were very good at talking because they know they are funny," he said.

"They were trying to be funny. Well, that's what everyone in Skibbereen says, that they are funny boys. They are the 'funny rowing brothers'."

Paul O'Donovan hadn't heard about it.

"All good, I hope?" he inquired after hearing about the mention.

Kathleen Henry and her son James Wall (20 months) from Skreen, Co Sligo. Photo: Steve
Humphreys
Kathleen Henry and her son James Wall (20 months) from Skreen, Co Sligo. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Er, no. His iconic cheery smile faded.

"I don't know anything about it. I'll look into it," said Paul sternly after hearing about it.

"Good man, Graham," he added briskly, of Norton.

Up in the busy fields, another Cork family outfit was 'pulling like a dog'.

Grandfather Dan O'Driscoll and grandson Cian Harrington (19), from Bandon, Co Cork, were competing in the Macra class.

An aerial view of the championships. Photo: Dennis Horgan
An aerial view of the championships. Photo: Dennis Horgan

Dan has been ploughing competitively since the 1960s.

"My son had no interest - he did a bit," he said.

Much to his surprise, the passion for an artfully straight furrow skipped a generation and Cian was happy to take his place at the wheel.

"I wasn't expecting it," said Dan, adding: "He's coming along. He's getting the knack."

The final day of the Ploughing Championships dawned with blue skies.

The attendance figures were 72,000 - down on last year's but up overall, at 283,000.

Anna Marie McHugh, Assistant Managing Director of the National Ploughing Championships, said the event had been a success in Screggan - despite the site being more congested, with two hump-back bridges and being on the fringes of a major town.

"But it worked. We wouldn't be here if we thought it didn't work," she said.

People had arrived early and stayed longer, said Ms McHugh.

Asked how much the show was now worth to the economy, she said that the last research five years ago showed it was worth over €35m.

"It's worth a lot more than that now - maybe over €40m," she reckoned.

One of the major motor companies had told her that the Ploughing is considered to be 'the' Irish motorshow of the year.

Meanwhile, she said there is "no demand" for the plans to purchase their own permanent grounds.

"It's not something there's any demand for anytime we've asked the question," she said.

"The public like to move. Look what we have here in a new venue."

"It has massive knock-on effects - the town of Tullamore was buzzing. Portlaoise was full, Mullingar and Birr were full."

The announcement for next year's venue will be made in a few weeks' time.

At the Pig Agility stand - a kind of Olympics for porcines - the announcer was trying to cajole 'daddies' to join in and herd the pigs to victory. "I will find you," he called after a man who walked away.

Outside the salers cattle tent, three youngsters sprawled on a small haystack - a scene of timeless country serenity - but for the three mobile phones.

Martin McGuinness had turned up, saying he was happy to take up the invitation to appear before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee to answer questions about Nama's Project Eagle.

In the innovations tent, student Daniel Carroll (17) from Tullamore, Co Offaly, was showcasing his Caballis Equi feeder which allows horses to feed in smaller quantities like in the field.

"Overall, the horses are more relaxed, less anxious and bored - and their gut is healthier," he said, adding that he is looking for an investor and hopes to have it in production by next year.

Irish Independent