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Sunday 4 December 2016

Shear excitement set to grip Kilkenny

Fantastic family day out promised in Clara as Irish bid to wrestle honours from world's best at Sheep Shearing and Wool Handling Championships

Declan O'Brien and Caitriona Murphy

Published 31/05/2011 | 05:00

More than 15,000 spectators are expected in Kilkenny this weekend, where some of the world's best will compete in the Clik All-Ireland and International Sheep Shearing and Wool Handling Championships.

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The championships take place at the Cillin Hill Exhibition Centre on the edge of Kilkenny city this Saturday and Sunday and more than 250 top sheep shearers and wool handlers are taking part.

However, the action will not be confined to the shearing platform. The is a family festival with everything from a fun fair for kids to market stalls and exhibits for visitors who want more than wool.

IFA president and Kilkenny native John Bryan said the event was timely and had the potential to generate €5m for the local economy.

"The Sheep Shearing Championship is a key event and will attract farmers from all over the country," Mr Bryan said.

The current sheep shearing world record holders, all brothers, are among the star attractions. New Zealanders Doug, Rowland and Matthew Smith have been installed as favourites to take the Clik Irish International title on their first visit to Ireland.

Doug and Rowland are the current world record holders for 'two-stand' shearing, having shorn 1,066 sheep in eight hours in January.

However, the Kiwis may not have it all their own way because they will face stiff competition from leading Irish and international shearers, including the current champion, Ivan Scott from Donegal, and Hamish Mitchell from Scotland.

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Other elite Irish shearers include George Graham from Wexford, Tom Kennedy from Galway, Andrew Corrigan from Kildare, and John Quigley from Tipperary.

Another star attraction at the championships will be the current world champion woolhandler, Bronwen Tango from Usk, Monmouthshire in Wales.

She will be competing in Kilkenny against top woolhandlers from Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

As well as featuring sheep and wool competitions, this year's championship programme has been broadened to include the family-focused festival.

It includes sheepdog trials and a pet dog show, magic and circus shows, food and craft exhibits, a funfair, strongman and wrestling exhibitions, and a 24-hour charity sheep shear.

The event also includes a festival finale dance with The Conquerors on Sunday night, felting workshops and pottery making for children, live buskers and lots more.

"It's going to be one of the biggest sheep, wool and cultural festivals ever staged in Ireland," said organising committee chairman Mícheál Nolan.

"Our festival coincides with the Cat Laughs Comedy Festival and the two events will be mutually beneficial to the entire region.

"Together, they add to the buzz, excitement and festival ambiance in Kilkenny and we expect that surrounding counties such as Carlow, Wexford, Waterford, Laois, Tipperary and Kildare will get a significant bounce in terms of revenue spend, hotel and restaurant bookings and increased visitor numbers," Mr Nolan added.

Andrew Corrigan, the chairman of the Irish Sheep Shearers' Association, wished the hosts, Clara, a very successful All-Ireland and International Sheep Shearing and Wool Handling Championships.

He also thanked the sponsors and sheep owners for their co-operation in making these championships possible.

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