Wexford ploughmen win euro titles on home soil
Two Wexford men dug deep and claimed gold for Ireland in the conventional and reversible ploughing classes at the European Championships in Ballinaboola on Saturday and Sunday.
It was a clean sweep for Team Ireland at the 36th annual European championships with Irish ploughmen topping the field across all competitions.
Multi-world conventional ploughing champion Martin Kehoe from Clongeen and Dan Donnelly from Kilmuckridge secured gold in the conventional and reversible ploughing classes respectively. Both men were in poll position to secure overall wins after day one.
Martin Kehoe said he was very happy with his wins on Saturday and Sunday.
He said: 'The conditions were dry, maybe a little too dry for ploughing in parts where there were tracks in the ground.'
Dan Donnelly said he was confident going into the competition and was delighted with how he performed.
'It was probably the best two jobs I have done over the past few years. I'm afraid of my life I will wake up and think it was all a dream but at the moment I am feeling fairly good.'
A third member of Team Ireland, Brian Mahon from Co Offaly, secured a silver medal on day two of the reversible class giving him a fourth place finish overall. World ploughing reversible silver medallist and former winner John Whelan, from Ballycullane, did not compete as both he and world conventional ploughing champion Eamonn Tracey are in the worlds in America this August.
Some 33 competitors from 13 countries and over 200 European visitors between competitors, judges, coaches and supporters descended on Wexford for the international competition, the majority staying at the Ferrycarrig Hotel, bringing a big spend to the area.
Over the two days hundreds of people visited the championships which were held on fields kindly provided by David O'Dwyer and his family whose land at Springpark. Among the attendees on Saturday was EU Commissioner Phil Hogan who spoke, unsurprisingly, about the issue of Brexit and the impact it may have on the Agricultural Sector.
The closing ceremony was held at the site in Ballinaboola on Sunday evening with the flags handed over from Ireland to next year's host the Czech Republic.
The ploughing elite from 13 countries; Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Russia, Scotland, Switzerland and Wales, competed.
There will be 33 competitors and over 200 European visitors between competitors, judges, coaches and supporters descending on the county, bringing a truly international flavour.
Ireland last hosted the European Event in 2011 but this will be a first for National Ploughing Association to host the competition as a stand-alone event and the first time the association have introduced a Conventional Class, as well as the traditional European Reversible.
At the European Ploughing Championships Prizewinners Gala night at the Ferrycarrig Hotel, on Sunday, Minister Paul Kehoe thanked National Ploughing Association Managing Director, Anna May McHugh; Chairman James Walshe; European Ploughing Championships General Secretary Mart Bakker; John Roberts of the Local Organising Committee; and welcomed all of the guests.
'When I addressed many of you at the launch of this event last December, I expressed my confidence that both the organisers and participants would do themselves, their countries and their families proud. My words were indeed an understatement when you consider the great talent, skills and exceptional work ethic that has been on display over the course of this weekend,' Mr Kehoe said.
He said more than 200 visitors from across 13 countries have visited Co Wexford for the event
'Great credit must go to the association for its energy and vigour in attracting and ensuring the success of events like this which portray a very positive image of Ireland at home and abroad and makes a major contribution to the local economy.'
He praised the six Wexford ploughing clubs who were heavily involved in organising the event, in marking out plots, organising tractors and ploughs for visiting competitors, arranging parking and providing a number of stewards over the two days of competition, should also be acknowledged.
'But above all, I want to pay tribute to all the winners and competitors. You are the reason so many people turned up to support this event.'