Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 March 2018

Monsoon mudbath was just perfect for ploughing

Germany's Thomas Kunze pictured in action at the International Reversable Plough competition. Photo: Frank McGrath
Germany's Thomas Kunze pictured in action at the International Reversable Plough competition. Photo: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Brian Cowen accepts a bottle of red mulled apple juice from Maurice Gilbert during his visit to the Ballyhoura stand at the Leader Taste and Crafts Arena. Photo: Frank McGrath
Soccer star Kevin Doyle entertains Evan Hales (9) from Mullingar
Ploughmen Moss Trant , Tralee and Jim Cronin Killaloe work out their plot lines at the Senior Horse Class. Photo: Frank McGrath
Sisters Sandra (10) and Sarah Malone (8) from Wicklow enjoy an icecream while braving the flooded walkways. Photo: Frank McGrath
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Mud? This wasn't mud. It was the silt bed of the Ganges in monsoon season. A farm gate on sheep dipping day. Willy Wonka's chocolate river ... any comparison you like so long as it's brown, sludgy and muddy. Very, very muddy.

Wellies went overnight from being a nice little optional extra to vital lifesaver yesterday at the National Ploughing Championships.

With torrential and nigh-on continuous rain overnight, the site had liquified by morning.

With most of the carparks waterlogged and forced to close, steel walkways flooded and everything in between a bath of watery muck, it made for a trying ordeal.

Oddly enough, however, it also made for excellent ploughing conditions. Far from the madding crowds, tractors sliced cleanly through the moist dark earth, with few spectators to bother the hard working competitors.

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph," muttered a woman to her husband as they suffered through the mire back at base, holding on to one another for dear life. One wobble and they were doomed.

The mud sprayed up over everyone's wellies, became embedded in their jeans, got smeared on to little noses and into eyes. It became a badge of honour for youngsters who channelled a "festival chic" vibe by smearing it on their cheeks.

It besmudged the nice cotton bags with the owls on them from the Odlums tent and permanently destroyed the trendy trainers of teenagers too mortified to wear rubber boots.

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Republic of Ireland striker Kevin Doyle, who had come along to the Dairy Council tent to take part in a cheese tasting, brushed at his designer jeans in an effort to keep the muck at bay. His expensive looking canvas sports shoes, however, were almost certainly bin-bound.

He did have wellies to change into, he said a trifle dolefully, seeming to realise that it might have been a little late.

Bit of a change from his regular lifestyle, someone suggested. "Yeah," Kevin grinned.

But the ploughing championships have a romantic link for him and his wife, Jenny. The couple first met on the bus on the way here 10 years ago, when, like many teenagers, they came along as an excuse to get a day off school. "I should've brought her back because it'd be our 10-year anniversary," he said.

At the sheep-shearing sheds, Charlie-Dean Walsh (3) and his brother Gerard-Jack (6) from Forest Lane in Athy had a go at easing a fleece off a sheep's back, which lay as obligingly still as a client at the barbers.

"We have two sheep at home but they keep running away," said Charlie-Dean.

And then the rain began again, this time in torrents.

"Mammy, you're always telling me not to go into the mud and now you're bringing me into the mud," wailed one youngster.

"Just come on," pleaded his mother.

The people at Waterways Ireland, appropriately enough, began to hand out blue plastic ponchos which were snatched from their hands.

But despite it all, the crowds remained cheerful. They had been expecting as much and most had come prepared.

The grande dame of the championships, managing director Anna May McHugh, declared this year's event a great success, hastily adding: "Except for the weather."

Next year sees the big celebrations for the 80th anniversary of the championships, which will be back again at the same site in Athy -- where it all began back in 1931.

Irish Independent