Watch: Irish national sheep dog trials

David Doyle

The Irish national sheep dog trials took place recently at Bridge Meadow Bunclody, Co Wexford.

The three-day event selected 15 of the top dogs in the country. Which will represent Ireland in the International sheep dog trials which will be held near the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire in early September.

Over the three days, 150 sheep dogs from all around the Island north and south and the Isle of Man came to Bunclody to compete. Each day 50 trials took place and out of those the top five dogs on the day are selected for the Irish team.

On the last day the number one from the three days go head to head to be crowned Irish National Champion and he or she intern captains the team in the International.

The singles judges this year for the Irish trials where Barra O’Brian from Athlone and Thomas Doherty from Ballybofey. The doubles judges or the “Brace” where a Brain Casey from Co. Tipperary and Seamus Gallagher from Ballmena.

The teams that take part in the international trails are England, Scotland, Wales and the Island of Ireland and the Isle of Man make up the Irish team.

All handlers start with 110 points and gain points for every part of the cores completed correctly. At some stage during the day the judges introduce a “Standard”. Where if the dog has lost so many points that there is no way it could make it into the top 5 on that day the run ends for that handler no matter what stage he is at.

These trials are not just about winning the Irish national. While the different runs are going on spectators are watching to see how the animal performs, thinking of maybe breeding their own animals to that dog. A lot of the dogs go for stud during and after their career so the trails are so much more to good dog handlers and some have been known to make a living from it.

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But behind it all said John McCullough the national president said: “The pride is far more important than the potential money to all real handlers.”

Tom Huddleston chairman of the International Sheep Dog Society was there to explain how everything works and what the judges are looking for.

The scoring is divided into the gathering 50 points, driving 30 points, shedding 10 and penning 10 and single 10. These are all based on typical jobs that farmers require of the dog while on daily stock handling duties. The gathering comprises of an outrun, a lift and a fetch.

The outrun is where the dog is sent around the five sheep that await it at the fare side of field, he then lifts them from where they are and fetched them back to the handler. The drive is where the dog pushed the sheep up threw a series of gates seven yards wide.

In the Irish national the handler stood at the post directing the dog to drive the sheep 450 yards over humps and hollows of a triangular course threw two sets of gates. Where the dog and handler work together in the ring to separate two sheep without collars from the bunch of five and be in full control is the shedding.

Penning is very self-explanatory, an 8 by 9 foot pen where the dog must drive the sheep into. The last part of the course is the single. Where one of the two sheep with a collar must be shed while staying in the ring. 

The sheep used are between 6-9 months old, young sheep are much better to use in trails because they are “like teenagers just waiting for some direction in life”. Once they are used they are never used again in that trial.

This Year Allistair Lyttle with Scott was crowned National Champion. Second was also Allistair and Jim. Third Place goes to James McCaffrey and Mey.

National Champion

Allistair Lyttle (scott) run-off (out of 200) 184, 198;

2 Allistair Lyttle, Jim, run off 142, 204

3 James McCaffrey, Mey ,runn-off DQ, 198

4 Frankie McCullough, Cap, 198

5 Johnny Cremin, Sally, 192

6 Toddy Lambe, Ben,182

7 Martin Feeney, Jack, 190

8 Martin O’Malley, Gwenno, 178

9 Eamonn McAuley, Roy, 178

10 John Rooney, Taff, 188

11 Kieran McFadden, Star, 175

12 Dean McAuley, Jan, 168

13 Michael Hopkins, Dale, 188

14 Peter ConCannon, Sweep,173

15 Mick Burke, Tiny,167

Reserve, Martin O’Malley, Groesfaen Jock ,182


Champin Dennis Birchall, Peggy and Tweed, 220 

Runner-up, Sammy Long, Roy and Jaybeez Broozer, 214.

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