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Friday 18 August 2017

How this man became one of Ireland's top sheep breeders despite having no land

You don’t need to own land to own the country’s premier pedigree Texel sheep, reports Martin Ryan

Texel Growvite National Supreme Champion and Male Champion with John Neville, Co Wexford (left), exhibitor of the Supreme Champion; Anthony Donnelly, Co Mayo, exhibitor of the Reserve Supreme Champion and Female Champion; judge Anna Minnice-Hughes; sponsor Mark O’Rourke (Univet) and Patrick Joyce. Photos: Columba O’Hare
Texel Growvite National Supreme Champion and Male Champion with John Neville, Co Wexford (left), exhibitor of the Supreme Champion; Anthony Donnelly, Co Mayo, exhibitor of the Reserve Supreme Champion and Female Champion; judge Anna Minnice-Hughes; sponsor Mark O’Rourke (Univet) and Patrick Joyce. Photos: Columba O’Hare

Martin Ryan

FOR Wexford man John Neville, not being a landowner has been zero deterrent to him becoming one of the most successful Texel sheep breeders in the country.

The 2017 Grovite Texel All Ireland Supreme Championship breeder's love for sheep goes back to his schooldays, when he made his first investment in the "woollies" as a young teenager - and he has lost no ground since, on his way to becoming one of the top Texel breeders of champions in the country.

He rents land to keep his flock of 60 pedigree Texels at Brownstown, Murrintown - of which his Ram Lamb UVI1701309 was awarded the top accolade at the Irish Texel Sheep Society Grovite All Ireland Championship from a line-out of 186 entries. These represented some of the top flocks in the country, whose owners themselves flocked to the sun-drenched Gorey Agricultural Show in the sunny Southeast to vie for the top award of the year for the breed.

Show judge Anna Minnice- Hughes's choice for the coveted rosette - Ram Lamb UVI1701309 - was sired by Tophill Wallstreet and out of a Strathbogie Python ewe, herself having been selected as the first-prize-winning lamb at the 2013 National Championships, while a sister bred the premier sale champion 2016.

While his first success in breeding the Supreme Champion 2017 is a milestone for John, he was aleady on a winning trail after he had collected some prestigious rosettes in 2016.

"I suppose 2016 was my most successful showing season when I had the Champion Male and Champion Female at the Premier Texel Show and Sale," he said, reflecting on the flock which he has been building up for the past 14 years.

"I have been concentrating on the female side of the breeding in recent years and made some purchases in Scotland, which has made a difference," he explained as contributing to his successes in 2016 and 2017.

The next date on the diary for the flock is the 2017 Premier Show and Sale at Blessington Livestock Mart on Friday and Saturday, August 11 and 12, where entries from the Thornville flock will be in contention for the honours again.


The Grovite Championships is the premier showing event on the Texel calendar, with the strong entry reflecting the challenge for the awards.

Reserve Supreme Champion was awarded to the winner of the Senior Ewe Lamb class and the Female Champion of the show, DII1701294, from the flock of Anthony Donnelly, Claremorris, Co Mayo.

The long trip down from the west proved worthwhile for Martin Walsh, Carnaculla, Swinford, Co Mayo, when he was presented with the red rosette in the Senior Ram class and also coming second in both the Aged Ewe class and Novice Ram class.

In the Shearling Ram class, Anne Murphy was placed first with Foundry Yahoo, a son of Corbo Val Verde and a Chessy ewe. Liam Dillon from New Ross was placed second in the Senior Ewe Lamb class with a daughter of Knap You're The Man and Oberstown Usain Bolt. She went on later to be the Reserve Female Champion of the day.

The Reserve Male Champion title was awarded to the second-placed Senior Ram Lamb, FSE1701050, by Stainton Vantage II, exhibited by Fergal Ó Sé, Tralee, Co Kerry.

Anthony Donnelly scored a triple success, showing the red rosette winners in three of the ewe classes. Initially, Anthony was brought forward with a daughter of Knock Ursus DII16023 in the highly competitive Shearling Ewe class. His flashy Senior Ewe Lamb DII1701294 was selected by Ms Minnice-Hughes as her first-prized ewe lamb, and she eventually went on to become the Reserve Supreme Champion.

This is the second consecutive year that Anthony has taken this title back to Co Mayo!

DII1701306, a daughter of Knock Yazoo and an Ettrick Rainbow warrior dam, also took the Junior Ewe lamb title for Anthony, while Knock Yazoo also came up trumps for D and E McManamon of Derrylahan, Newport, Co Mayo in the Junior Ram Lamb class with Derrylahan Alpha Male DEE1705544 coming out in premier position.

In what were seen as the most ecstatic winners of the day, the Novice classes were won by Tom Whelan, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, and Sean McGee, Crosskeys, Co Cavan.

Tom and his grand- children successfully exhibited a powerful ram lamb, TWF1701762, Springbridge Alex, by Thornville Winner, while Sean McGee, Co Cavan, displayed a classy daughter, ZEI1701717, out of Tophill Wallstreet, which was selected to be the first-placed.

The Gemma Doyle Memorial Cup was presented to David Craig, Clonard, Co Meath, as the Junior Stockperson of the Year 2017. Congratulations to all.


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