Siblings banned from hay roll contest
Ireland's only roll in the hay contest this weekend has banned siblings from entering after a brother and sister won the inaugural challenge.
Organisers said legitimate lovers only will be allowed to take part in Sunday's quest in Trim, Co Meath, to find the country's greatest field fumblers.
Last year's contest raised eyebrows amid crowds of up to 7,000 people when a local brother and sister team picked up the top prize of a romantic getaway in a plush hotel.
"That's not allowed any more, the county will be getting a bad name," said chief organiser Pat Farrelly.
"It's strictly romance from now on."
The sweethearts' showdown takes place on the banks of the Boyne under the shadow of Trim Castle - the setting for the Mel Gibson blockbuster Braveheart - as part of the Trim Haymaking Festival.
In another unique feature of this year's event, more than 10 ambassadors to Ireland will take part in a donkey derby.
The top diplomats - from Belgium, Canada, China, Egypt, Greece, Kenya, Morocco, Portugal, South Africa and Sweden - will swap their robes of office for jockeys' silks, in the colours of their country.
Commentator Michael Slevin will provide live coverage while a bookmaker in period costume will take bets on the international chase.
Organisers say they have extended the tenderly crafted "Tunnel of Love" for the roll in the hay contest while a waterspray obstacle has been added to the wheelbarrow ride, hay nest and roll towards the river circuit.
A matchmaker will be on hand to find a suitable pairing for anyone without a significant other on the day.
Couples are awarded points for technique and style but there will also be penalties for misdemeanours such as disturbing the hay too much during the roll.
Mr Farrelly insisted a panel of eminent judges were very liberal in their outlook and would not necessarily disqualify the overly amorous in the heat of the moment.
Finalists will face a test of their compatibility for a romantic getaway at the nearby Knightsbrook Hotel.
Other draws at the annual festival include the world champion hay sheath throwing contest, the national scythe-cutting competition, a goat show and a Wellington throwing contest - the Duke of Wellington was born in Trim.
"There's also a huge extension of old Dan O'Hara farm where you can milk a cow like a traditional farmer," said Mr Farrelly.
"She's a real quiet cow too and you can use the milk for your tea."
First staged in 1968, the weekend-long festival is organised by Scurlogstown Olympiad, which was set up to revive the Tailteann Games, an ancient event held in Ireland in honour of Queen Tailtiu.
According to folklore, the games were witnessed by Greek traders travelling through Co Meath almost 2,000 years ago, and formed the basis of the present-day Olympic games.