Wexford's Whelan is the one to beat in senior reversible
Some 330 men and women from all over Ireland are to take part in 24 classes at the prestigious National Ploughing Championships, with every individual hoping to secure a national title.
Among the highlights of the ploughing over the next three days will be the senior reversible and senior conventional two-furrow classes, both of which will feature medal winners from the World Ploughing Championships in Canada earlier this year.
World champion ploughman John Whelan is set to face stiff competition in the senior reversible class, which begins at 10.30am tomorrow. The two-day competition will see 22 ploughmen open their first splits and plough for three hours and 20 minutes with the utmost concentration.
Wexford man Whelan will be defending his national title from 2012, while his 21 fellow competitors will be aiming to beat a world champion if at all possible. On form so far this year in the senior reversible two-furrow competitions have been Ger Coakley from Cork, Offaly's Brian Mahon and Brian Ireland from Kilkenny. However Liam O'Driscoll from west Cork and Declan Buttle from Co Wexford will not be taking any prisoners.
All will be hoping to draw a good plot and impress the judges enough to gain points in this two-day competition. Day one will take place on stubble ground, while day two is on grass and the effort required to produce winning performances on both days is not to be underestimated.
National Ploughing Association (NPA) chairman James Sutton explains what the judges are looking for:
"They are looking for straightness and a uniformity of all sods in the plot that measures about one-third of an acre. They want the competitors to make plenty of 'flesh' available, which means plenty of soil available to create a good seedbed for next year's crop," he says.
"All trash such as weeds, stubble and other debris must be completely buried so that it won't come up and germinate again. The sods must be tight and firm to keep the trash down."