World champ eyes up French challenge
World champion John Whelan is ready to take on all comers this week as he tries to secure a spot at the 2014 World Ploughing Championships in Bordeaux, France next September.
The New Ross native has already ploughed at world level in five countries – Canada, Lithuania, Austrian, Sweden and the Czech Republic – and is keen to add France to the list of soils he has ploughed.
Mr Whelan took on more than 57 competitors from 29 countries in Canada to win the world reversible ploughing competition last July. In recent years he has also won the European reversible ploughing contest twice and been four times senior reversible national champion four times.
"I would love to try to retain my world title next year, I won't lie," he told the Farming Independent.
The Wexford man said he relished the challenge of competing against the world's best on new and challenging soils.
"In the Czech Republic we ploughed very hard and dry soil in 35-40C heat, while in Canada it was still hot at 30C but the soil was very wet – almost peaty, boggy soil."
"There are a few lads who would like to beat me and take that spot, but it's all good healthy rivalry and we'll sit down for a bite to eat and a chat after the competition no matter what happens," he laughed.
He maintains that ploughing as a sport is on the increase across Ireland.
"When I started ploughing competitively with my local club, there were only 26 people competing but now we have 90," he said.
"We are still very much an agricultural country and that can be ignored sometimes, but the National Ploughing Championships is a massive showcase for us to show off what we do.
"Since the Celtic Tiger died off I think people are more content in themselves and happier to stay at home, going to local shows and competitions for entertainment instead of heading for far-away beaches."