Tough nuts no bother for conkering champion
THEY came, they saw ... and they conkered.
Competition was intense at the 12th annual Irish Conker Championships in Freshford, Co Kilkenny, yesterday as this year's crop was scarcer, smaller and tougher than ever.
Heavy rainfall meant the seeds of the horse chestnut trees shrunk in size this year, but that didn't dull the interest in the event.
High winds scuppered the World Conker Championships in England earlier this month, so there was a surge in participants from across the water -- but the title went to a home winner.
Mark Graham, from Waterford, is the new Irish champion, after beating John Manning, from Dublin, in the final.
More skill was needed to break the conkers than ever before and last year's champion, Peter Theloke, was on hand to offer advice to novice competitors.
Organisers had warned that with smaller conkers the game was tougher as the nuts were harder to crack.
Basket weaving, arts and crafts, comedy and a 3.5km walk were all on the agenda yesterday as well as the main event, the conker championships itself.
The old-fashioned game has enjoyed a revival in recent years and this year marked the 12th year of the Irish championships.
Nearby, the bank-holiday-weekend festivities were continuing with the fifth-annual Savour Kilkenny Food Festival.
The Marble City attracted thousands of food lovers for a weekend of open-air cookery demonstrations, blind food tastings and even an appearance from RTE's 'MasterChef' champion Mary Carney.
Festival chairman Ger Mullally said the event helped to showcase Kilkenny's rich food heritage. "The food sector is hugely important to the local economy. It has huge potential for job creation and deserves to be supported," he added.