Hands up: how many people visiting Tullamore last week actually took the time to visit the competition ploughing plots?
Shame on you, if you didn’t! Ireland is home to a selection of the world’s greatest ploughmen and to watch these guys in action is an absolute treat.
Admittedly, ploughing does not engender the same level of feverish activity as would an All-Ireland football or hurling final. But the sport, for that’s what it is, has other attractions.
In the first instance, the degree of commitment and skill demonstrated by ploughmen is on a par with any other activity that requires talent and commitment to the cause.
The other great attraction of most ploughing events is the fact that that they provide an insightful glimpse into our farming heritage. From modern 200hp plus tractors, going back in time to Grey Fergies and – of course – the ever popular horses, every generation of ploughing technology will always be on display.
But the national championships are only the tip of the iceberg, where competitive ploughing is concerned. Clubs the length and breadth of this island organise events from September through until April. All are equally colourful with each reflecting the agricultural heritage of its own catchment area.
Ploughing is an activity that appeals to those with an inherent love for the land. It also offers a combination of competition and camaraderie that is hard to find from any other hobby or pastime. Ploughing also highlights just how important the skill of turning the sod is when it comes to providing everyone on this planet with a sustainable source of food.
No doubt all of last week’s competitors spent many hours honing their skills with to perfection. They all deserve tremendous credit for what they achieved – winning or simply having the dedication to turn up and take part. The reality is that Irish agriculture can celebrate all of their achievements.