Ratheniska smashes all previous crowd records

Tadgh Kilbride from Co Meath enjoying the final day of the 2014 National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, Co. Laois.
Tadgh Kilbride from Co Meath enjoying the final day of the 2014 National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, Co. Laois.

Aideen Sheehan

Attendance at the Ploughing Championships has reached an all-time high, with 279,500 visitors over the three days.

Some 73,000 people visited yesterday resulting in the total attendance soaring past the quarter-of-a-million mark for the first time ever, up over 50,000 on last year's record.

National Ploughing Association (NPA) managing director Anna May McHugh said good weather and excellent transport links had resulted in the unprecedented success.

"I'm absolutely delighted for everyone who came, it's been an unbelievable success," she said.

The NPA will make a decision over the next two weeks on whether to hold it at Ratheniska, Co Laois, again next year, or move to an alternative site that is being considered in Carlow.

The decision will be announced on October 12 following the prize-giving for this year's event, Ms McHugh said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the ploughing was an extraordinary occasion.

He said it was an "expression of the quality nature of Irish society".

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"It's family, it's children, it's building for the future," he said.

Ms McHugh said that while the event had enjoyed a very good year commercially, it cost €4m to stage with huge extra investment put in to improve facilities this year, ranging from extra metal trackway to more toilets, better water supplies and security on-site from the end of August.

She said she was thrilled to see the effort exhibitors had put in to raising the standards of the stands.

World champion ploughman Eamonn Tracey, from Carlow, won the Conventional Ploughing Competition, while bronze medallist John Whelan, from Wexford, won the Reversible Ploughing competition.

Meanwhile the Irish Farmers' Association urged grain growers to sow less crops this autumn to try and get better prices.

IFA grain chairman Liam Dunne said that Irish and European growers "should park up the ploughs early this autumn and reduce sowings as a matter of urgency".

"This will send a strong message to speculative investors and other vested interests that farmers are not prepared to supply grain at prices that are below the cost of production," he said.

Grain prices have tumbled after a bumper harvest worldwide.

Irish Independent

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