200,000 to make straight line for ploughing championships

President Michael D Higgins to open event at Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co Laois


The Chinese are coming. So are the New Zealanders, the British and many more international visitors. The 82nd National Ploughing Championships open this morning at Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co Laois, and will host its biggest ever gathering of international visitors.

The three-day event is the largest show of its type in Europe and is expected to attract up to 200,000 people this year. Last year, more than 187,000 travelled to New Ross, Wexford, in challenging weather conditions so this central location and the good weather forecast should further boost the numbers.

Bord Bia will be escorting a group of Chinese journalists around the eclectic mix of attractions while BBC Television is taking its breakfast show to the championships.

BBC World Service will also be giving its perspective on an event where the country’s political leader rubs shoulders with farmers; groups of men and women compete to see who is the fastest at building a vintage tractor; and thousands flock to cookery demonstrations and fashion shows.

And all of this while hundreds of plough men and women will compete for a prize fund of €18,000 in more than 20 classes.

Gardaí are expecting a crowd of between 80,000 and 90,000 today. After 10 years of catering for Electric Picnic revellers in nearby Stradbally, gardaí and the National Ploughing Association hope that it will be one of the most successful championships in terms of traffic management.

The traffic management plan includes six main access routes, which will be clearly signposted. Motorists have been advised not to use their sat-navs to access the site because the devices will conflict with the recommended routes.

Traffic from Cork should exit at Junction 4 (Urlingford/ Johnstown) on the M8. Traffic from Dublin, Leinster and the North should exit at Junction 15 (Cappakeel) on the M7. Traffic from Limerick, Kerry and the South West should exit at Junction 17 (Togher) on the M7 while traffic from other areas should follow the “Ploughing” signs.

President Michael D Higgins will formally declare the event open at noon, accompanied by clergy from various faiths who will bless the grounds.

This year’s event is being hosted by the family of David and Shirley Carter. They have provided 120 acres, while up to 600 acres is being provided by neighbouring farms.

While it’s always advisable to bring wellington boots to the event, people on site yesterday said dust, rather than muck was the biggest problem.

Nevertheless, some 22.5km of metal trackways have been laid across the site to ensure that things don’t take a mucky turn later in the week.

Visitors can expect to be canvassed at least once during their visit. Seanad referendum campaigners are expected to be out in force, IFA presidential candidates Jer Bergin and Eddie Downey will be setting out their stalls, and the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association also has two nominees for its December election – president Gabriel Gilmartin being challenged by Leinster vice-president Patrick Kent.