Saturday 27 December 2014

Where there's muck there's money but organisers must dig deep with €3m bill

Eighty years on, inaugural site to host more than 1,100 exhibits over 700 acres of land

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

Published 19/09/2011 | 05:00

Larry Moran, John Moran, exhibition head supervisor, and Robert Moran run final checks

EIGHTY years ago the bill for hosting the National Ploughing Championships came in at a modest £9-3s-5p, compared with today's cost of €3m.

More than 180,000 people are expected through the gates in Cardenton, Athy, Co Kildare, for the three-day event, which opens tomorrow.

All 1,100 exhibits are in place, the ploughing sites have been marked and only the final touches remain.

President Mary McAleese, who has attended every year during her term in office, will officially open the event.

The championships were given a boost over the weekend when word came from Strasbourg that 23-year-old Gerard Coakley, from Cork, took second place in a European ploughing contest.

Gerard is "one to watch" in the under-28 championships, according to managing director of the National Ploughing Association (NPA) Anna May McHugh.

"He's very promising, so we're looking forward to seeing him on Tuesday and Wednesday."

Ground conditions are good after a dry weekend in Cardenton and Ms McHugh said there was a "better atmosphere" surrounding this year's championships.

"I would hope that business will be good. The harvest went well for many people so I would expect an interest in machinery. Even though the economic climate hasn't improved in the past year, expectations are high for this year, there's a better atmosphere approaching the event than there was last year. We hope the exhibitors will benefit," she added.

The event is being held on the site where the inaugural National Ploughing Championships took place in 1931. Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be attending on Thursday, as is tradition, and other VIPs are expected along with all of the presidential candidates.

The 700-acre site has been transformed in the past week -- and the Defence Forces have even constructed a pedestrian bridge to allow access to the championships.

A garda traffic plan is in place and motorists are advised to follow the signage to the appropriate car parks. Visitors can expect everything from fresh cream cakes and vintage clothes to prize cows, biofuel cars and quirky inventions. One town has come up with a novel idea to help small businesses afford a shopfront at the event.

Carlow County Enterprise Board and Carlow Chamber will host up to 30 companies at the 'Experience Carlow' stand which hopes to generate sales of around €250,000 between them. The firms are varied so visitors can arrange everything from a bra fitting with Marie Sue Lingerie to a dog-sitter with Pet Sitters Ireland.

CEO of the Carlow County Enterprise Board Michael P Kelly said: "Small businesses are at the heart of our economy and if, as a country, we are to looking to them to sustain and create jobs, then they'll need our support and our purchasing power. We're encouraging everyone at the ploughing championships to support small businesses and to help boost the rural economy."

Meanwhile, some participants were so keen to get started that they held a ploughing match of their own at the weekend.

The Shortt family farm in Rathnew, Co Wicklow, hosted a ploughing match for enthusiasts. Among those taking part were Myles McGuire with his two horses Rockie and Fibee.

Irish Independent

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