Sheep handlers with their loyal canine companions will be flocking to Killarney to compete in the Irish National Sheepdog Trials next month.

The three-day national championship will take place at Killalee, Fossa, Killarney from Thursday, August 5 to Saturday, August 7, 2021, on a 52ac field owned by The Europe Hotel and Resort.

The trials will see 150 of the country’s top handlers, working with their sheepdogs to compete for the coveted trophy and be crowned national champion of Ireland.

Sheepdog trials

As part of the event, judges will also select 15 of the top dogs in the country, to represent Ireland in the International sheep dog trials later this year. 

This is also the first time the national sheepdog championship takes place in Co. Kerry.

International Sheepdog Trial Champion Tara Foley, Glencar, Co. Kerry Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

Tom O’Sullivan, chairman of the local committee, said: “Watching a handler control his dog herding sheep in a controlled manner, is the essence of a partnership, formed at home at an early age, when one goes about training a sheepdog to help out with everyday work on the farm.

“Everyone loves watching the sheepdog work at sheepdog trials. An event of this nature will be a huge economical boost to the Fossa and Killarney area alike, particularly after the 18 months of a global pandemic. 

“The art of working a sheepdog is magical. We are so proud to bring this event to the large sheep and farming community in Kerry.

“The sheepdog trials are an opportunity to showcase the importance of a trained sheepdog / border collie to the day-to-day running of the Irish farm,” he added.

Support for the sheepdog trials

The local committee has been supported in organising the event by South Kerry Development Partnership (SKDP), Kerry County Council and local businesses.

Gilbertson and Page Pet Food along with Irish Country Meats (ICM) are the main sponsors of the event.

l-r: Aisling O’Sullivan-D’arcy South Kerry Development Partnership; Sean Moriarty, farm manager, Europe Hotel and Resort Haven; Noreen O’Sullivan, Killarney Credit Union; Adrian Steher, managing director, Killarney Hotels, Ltd. (Liebherr); Liam Fleming, farmer; Tom O’Sullivan, chairman local committee and Kayleigh O’Sullivan. Tara Foley in front. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

Kathryn Roche of Irish Country Meats said: “Irish Country Meats [is] delighted to support the Irish National Sheepdog Trials for 2021.

“As the largest lamb processor in Ireland, all aspects of sheep farming are the fabric of our business. We are proud to be asked to partner in such a prestigious event and wish all competitors the best of luck. We wish the winners well in the international trials in Wales.”

Tom O’Sullivan added: “The 2020 event was cancelled due to Covid-19, which was disappointing but understandable.

“An event of this calibre is a wonderful opportunity for people to watch the best handlers and sheepdogs in Ireland, showcasing the age-old skill of working sheep on the trials field.”

The event will select the 15-person Irish team to represent Ireland at the 2021 International Sheepdog Trials in Aberystwyth, Wales. 

Location of sheepdog trials

The Europe Hotel and Resort has granted use of its 52ac field outside Killarney to host the event.

The sheep for the event will be from the farms of Jim Dennehy, Gap of Dunloe Road, and Con Healy, Millstreet, Co. Cork.

The local committee has stressed that the National Sheepdog Trials will be conducted in strict accordance with the government’s Covid-19 guidelines for organised outdoor events at the time of the event. 

The event currently expects to cap the crowd at 500 people, including competitors, local committee members and the general public.

Due to the limited number of people allowed to the event, the general public will not be allowed to enter once that capacity has been reached, therefore the committee is advising people to arrive early to avoid disappointment.