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Tailbacks as thousands head to ploughing championships

Forecasters have promised ‘some pretty good’ weather for the tens of thousands of visitors thronging the Ploughing Championships.

Crowds from all over Ireland started arriving at the 800-acre site in Ratheniska, Co Laois, from early resulting in heavy traffic on all approach roads.

The sheer volume of traffic meant some delays getting in on site, as everyone tried to arrive between 7am and 9am, said Garda Chief Supt John Scanlan.

"I'd advise people to take their time getting here in the morning because the problem is everyone thinks they'll get there early, when in fact it usually eases off later," he said.

The excellent motorway network around the site meant it was well positioned to take the crowd, but sheer volumes inevitably meant some delays.

"We're effectively trying to move the population of Cork into one small area, so a bit of patience is needed," he said.

More than 200,000 people are expected to attend over the next three days to see the national ploughing championships and visit the 1,400 exhibitions on display.

Early morning rain after weeks of sunshine was actually welcome in dampening down dust at the venue, said National Ploughing Association spokesperson Anna Marie McHugh.

"A lot of machinery and tractors had to be washed down yesterday because the dust was so bad, so the bit of rain will actually help," she said.

Met Eireann’s Evelyn Cusack said that despite a wet and cloudy start to day one, things are looking up.

“Day one at the National Ploughing Championships started off pretty cloudy and drizzly, a bit of a shock after the beautiful sunny day yesterday,” said Evelyn.

“But certainly pretty good weather over the next couple of days. It should be a hit with the crowds here.

“Normally it can be a bit of a mud bath, but the ground conditions are very dry actually and it’ll be good for the next few days.

“I think the farmers are pretty happy because overall it’s been a very good year weather wise for farming.

“Even though we started off very stormy, the winter was exceptionally mild and we’ve had some lovely dry spells, but not drought situations.”

President Michael D Higgins made an inspection of the ploughing contests prior to the official opening at noon.

The Carter family are hosting the event on their farm for the second year in a row after last year's event hosted a record-breaking 225,000 people over three days.

Rugby internationals Rob and Dave Kearney are also attending at the National Dairy Council to judge the most bling wellies.

A Rentokil "pestaurant" featuring edible insects also proved a hit with visitors lining up to sample delights such as chocolate-dipped worms and salted ants.

This is the 83rd year of the ploughing championships which is the biggest event of the farming year.

Broadcaster Ivan Yates revealed the championship was almost cancelled in the mid 1990s, until he intervened as Agriculture Minister and handed over IR£200,000 to organisers.

"For two years in a row it was completely washed out with rain," he said in an interview on stage in the Irish Independent marquee.

"Anna May McHugh came and said the whole thing was in danger of being cancelled.

"We gave a small six figure sum and it went on to be the biggest event of its kind in Europe."

Online Editors