AIB spoke with some of the contestants at this year’s National Ploughing Championships in Rathineska, Co Laois. Find out what motivates them to participate!
AIB at the National Ploughing Championships 2015
FROM Kilkenny to Mayo, tractors gathered on site in Ratheniska from early on Monday morning in preparation to go head-to-head in a bid for glory at this year’s National Ploughing Championships.
With competition categories in the 2015 event starting from early on Tuesday, Willie Ryan of Kilkenny (picture above) was poised and ready to put his skill to the test.
A long-standing competitor, Willie says: “I’d practise now for four or five days beforehand. It’s like going for the hurling, you can’t win if you don’t do the practising at home.
“You have to try and make time. It’s like there’s no use in being in Croke Park if you’re not in Nolan Park beforehand.”
“It’s like a football team, when you’re a young team you’re hungry and you put a lot into it. I used to put a lot into it and stay up all night to make sure a plough was correct. Whereas now I wouldn’t do that as much but I still practise.”
A representative for Ireland at the World Ploughing Championships over the years, Willie said a win still holds huge appeal.
Part of the Intermediate Class at this year’s Ploughing Championships on Tuesday morning,he explains: “I ploughed in the first championship in Kilkenny in 1964 and I’ve competed fairly often since. I won the Senior Championship three times and have represented Ireland in the Worlds.
“If I don’t win what about it, but you’d like to win!”
With his brother and sister noted in the Championship field as well, Willie said he has no plans to retire.
“I’m kind of addicted to it, I should be giving it up now but I’m like a man smoking, I can’t give it up!” he admits.
One of a host of competitors at this year’s event, close to 300,000 people are expected to attend the three-day Championship in County Laois.
Along with the ploughing classes, thousands flock to the event each year to sample new products from Irish businesses.
While many come along to catch a first glimpse of the latest products and innovations from exhibitors including John Eardly of Eardly Machinery.
Located close to the AIB stand, John says the event is a long-awaited date in the calendar each year.
“We’ve been going to Ploughing for 36 years. We find it a great place to do business. I have people I met back in 1980 and their sons and grandsons are here and do business with us now.” he explains.
With the event now widely popular with fans across the country, John says it’s changed a lot through the years.
John recalls: “In 1980 it wasn’t like it is today. It used to be in November and there were no tracks for the cars to travel on, no outdoor lighting and no traffic control.
“You’d have lads giving out and getting stuck in muck but everyone enjoyed it. It was always very popular, and now in the last few years the weather seems to be very good.”
Along with the Kilkenny native, Colette Twomey of Clonakilty Food Co. has attended the event for many years.
On hand at the Clonakilty stand to showcase the company’s new products and samples, Colette says that the event has been a key one for the Cork-based company to build up its fanbase.
“Ploughing is very important because when we were starting out in 1976, we went to ploughing matches and championships,” she explains.
“When people tasted the pudding they came back for more and went looking for it in their shops. That’s literally how we grew the business.
“It’s a tradition and a great PR exercise for us. Even though people would have tasted the black and white pudding, when they come here they can taste our rashers and sausages as well. And this year we have a bacon joint so there’s always something new coming on.”
With two of her sons joining her to give the crowds at County Laois a flavour of the Cork company’s range of products, Colette says that the event now attracts a more diverse audience.
“I’ve noticed that the numbers have gone way up over the years,” she explains.
“It’s not just farmers anymore. At one stage it was farmers and farmers’ wives who came to celebrate after the season, but it’s not that anymore. There are so many townspeople and people from all walks of lives.”
With AIB’s team of Agri advisors in attendance throughout the event to meet customers and share advice, attendees at the event also have the chance to test their knowledge by guessing the weight of bales of hay to win a McHale bale carrier at the AIB stand.
Denis O’Callaghan, Head of AIB Branch Banking, says of the importance of the event, “The summer we know is one of the most intensive periods for the farming community.”
“I think it’s really good for people to look forward to something at the end of that, in September, where they can all get together and talk in a very informal way, see new innovations, and hear about what’s happening in the sector in the period ahead.”
While Anne Finnegan, AIB Head of Agri, says that the team welcome any visits from customers today.
“If you visit the AIB stand today you’ll meet our team of Agri advisors, Agri specialists, and a whole team of staff to discuss all matter of farm financial matters,” she explains.
“We’d welcome anyone who wants to discuss their farm financial issues, or indeed just the general health of the farming sector in Ireland.”
Want to learn more about the National Ploughing Championships? Head over to our dedicated Youtube channel.