Thousands go bonkers for conkers despite national shortage of chestnuts
DESPITE a 'conker crisis' -- which threatened the very running of the event itself -- the National Conker Championships eventually proceeded in style as thousands turned up to watch hundreds of participants battle for supremacy.
Hosted as usual by the town of Freshford in Co Kilkenny, the championships were this year put to the pin of their collar by a disastrous spring which put paid to much of the usual conker crop by the time autumn came around.
"We got them eventually," festival chairperson Susan Murphy said.
"We travelled and travelled and drove around the country and got them, in the end," she said.
Some years the organisers manage to round up about 30,000 of the shiny brown weapons but, this year, they just managed to collect the 10,000 considered the minimum for a successful running of the championships.
Over 500 people took part in the event, while spectators also browsed up to 30 stalls which offered services like pottery, tattooing, wooden name plaques, and food.
"It's gone really well, considering the poor day, weather-wise and the conker shortage," Ms Murphy said.
In the end, it was Adrian Cahilly, from Threecastles in Kilkenny, who prevailed in the final of the main competition, defeating his rival Clive Oliver, with one devastating shot and showing little mercy for a contestant who travelled all the way from London to take part.
The team prize was won by the Brodericks, from around the country and beyond, while the younger champions were Ellie Quinn (Mullingar), Reece Quinlan-Phelan (Johnstown) and Olivia Stokes (Castle Durrow, Co Laois).
Other features of the weekend-long conker festival included a screening of the Oscar-nominated animated film 'The Secret of Kells', by Kilkenny-based The Cartoon Saloon; a walk around the Freshford Loop route; a talk by historian Ned Kennedy on 'Freshford -- the new Clonmacnoise'; readings; pottery; art and comedy.