‘It’s all about technique’: Queen of the Shears on success

Having been encouraged to help out with sheep shearing by her dad and brother, 21-year-old champion shearer Joanne Devaney from Sligo – renowned for her technique – has gone on to take the All-Ireland women’s cup for the last three years.

A love of sheep farming was instilled in her and her brother Karol by their father Padraig.

“My dad’s parents also had cows but he just went into sheep,” said Joanne, who always helped out on the family farm at Barnaribbon, Drumcliff, Sligo, close to the churchyard in which poet WB Yeats was buried.

“I love animals, particularly sheep, and sheep farming was definitely the path I was going down as I find it so interesting. I always helped dad doing the wool and filling the trailer.

I watched my father and brother shearing for years. Then one day I was given the handpiece and I just started using it, with their encouragement.

After sitting the Leaving Cert, she spent a year in Australia, perfecting her technique as a shearer. When she started shearing for other farmers in Sligo, the initial reaction was one of surprise, she said.

“However, once they saw I could do a good clean job, they were happy,” said Joanne, who plans to start in Ballyhaise agricultural college in September.

“Strength is a particular element of it but I am reasonably fit and do a lot of running in my spare time. Technique is extremely important. Good shearers focus on good technique and pattern perfection.”

All-Ireland Sheep Shearing 2019

Joanne is hoping to retain her ‘Queen of the Shears’ title this year at the All-Ireland Sheep Shearing Championships in Cashel, Co. Tipperary, this weekend. Last year, she also won a junior competition.

“I have come across other female shearers from this country but they have since retired and we have a woman from New Zealand on our farm this year who is helping with shearing,” said Joanne, who has three brothers and five sisters.

While she is delighted to win awards, Joanne is also keen to highlight the importance of skilled shearing.

It’s all go for the Sligo woman who is a member of the Irish wool handling team for the world shearing and wool handling championships which will take place in Le Dorat, France, in July.

More information about this weekend’s All-Ireland Sheep Shearing Cashel 2019 is on Facebook.