O'Keeffe clan take the Suffolk championships by storm again

Show stoppers: Chloe McLaughlin and her dad, Ronan from lnnishowen, Co Donegal with their Ewe Lamb Class winner
Show stoppers: Chloe McLaughlin and her dad, Ronan from lnnishowen, Co Donegal with their Ewe Lamb Class winner

Martin Ryan

Suffolk sheep breeders from Donegal to Wexford and Louth to Kerry vied for the honours at the 2019 breed championships held in conjunction with the 2019 NSBA Championships at Kilkenny.

The eight classes attracted an entry of 100 head and were keenly contested.

Immediate past president of the society, Campbell Watson of the Banview flock in Northern Ireland, one of the most experienced judges and successful exhibitors of Suffolks in Ireland and Britain, was tasked with awarding the rosettes.

While the honours were shared by breeders from eight counties, it was the dominance of the O'Keeffe family from Mallow that became the highlight of the show.

Arthur O'Keeffe with his Supreme Champion Suffolk
Arthur O'Keeffe with his Supreme Champion Suffolk

It turned out to be another exceptional day for the Mallow-based flocks of Arthur, Patrick, and Susan.

Entries from their three flocks took the top honours in five of the eight classes at the championship and they added a further six class awards across the five classes which they totally dominated - the Male Championship, Female Championship and Reserve, and Overall Championship and Reserve.

The only entry depriving them of a record-breaking overall sweep of the championships was Philip Lynch's winner of the Shearling Ram and Upwards Class.

His ram came to the championships as the title holder of the 2018 Suffolk Breed Championship at the National Livestock Show at Tullamore and was tapped forward for the Reserve Male Championship for his flock from Sea Bank, Castlebellingham, Co Louth.

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Philip also showed the runner-up to the O'Keeffe's entry in the Aged Ewe and Upwards class, and he was the exhibitor of the third and fourth placed in the Shearling Ewe class where the O'Keeffe's entries took first and second places.

Two Co Donegal breeders took the red rosettes in the remaining two classes with Richard Thompson of Ballinatone, Ballybofey, Lifford showing the winning Novice Ram Lamb, and Ronan McLaughlin of Malin Stables, Malin Town, lnishowen exhibiting the winning Novice Ewe Lamb.

But what a day it was for Susan O'Keeffe, her brother Arthur and his son Patrick as they took the show by storm to take home a basket of top honours to Cork.

The O'Keeffe family have been producing some of the tops of the breed for generations, and they continue with a dominance that can only be dreamed of by the vast majority of sheep breeders.

Sean Gahan holding Susan O’Keeffe’s Overall Reserve Champion
Sean Gahan holding Susan O’Keeffe’s Overall Reserve Champion

Smasher

Susan was showing at the first National Sheep Breeders Association Championships since taking over as President of the Suffolk Sheep Society which embraces membership of the Suffolk breeders in Ireland and the UK.

Her winner of the Ewe Lamb (Trimmed) class, which just pipped her brother's entry in the same class, went on to become the Reserve Female Champion. In the Open Ram Lamb Class, she showed another smasher to win the class ahead of her brother's entry, with the lamb going on to be selected Reserve Overall Champion of the breed.

Arthur O'Keeffe's winner of the Shearling Ewe Class, which pipped Susan's entry in this class, went on to become Female Champion and the Overall Supreme Champion.

Arthur showed the winner of the Aged Ewe and Upwards class, in which his son Patrick showed the third placed ewe, adding the winner of the Shearling Ewe class, and the second placed in the Open Ram Lamb Class, where his sister showed the winner.

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