Ploughing ‘a most beloved rendezvous’, says Higgins

80,000 expected to attend opening day of National Ploughing Championships

The National Ploughing Championships was described as "the most beloved rendezvous in Ireland's rural calendar" when President Michael D Higgins opened the event today.

More than 80,000 people were expected to attend this opening day of the National Ploughing Championships. Many of them were waiting when the gates opened at 8am.

Mr Higgins said he had always greatly enjoyed his visits to the Ploughing. “For me, as for all visitors, the Ploughing Championships are a convivial affair in which to meet old friends, enjoy the music and entertainment, acquaint oneself with the latest developments in machinery and farming techniques, taste a variety of Irish food and get an overview of the best that Ireland’s agriculture can offer,” he said.

Chief Supt John Scanlan said he was happy with how traffic to and from the site was proceeding, adding people should expect delays at an event of such magnitude. "We have no issue with traffic. There are volumes at the early part of the morning, between 7am and 9am but that is to be expected."


He said people tried to get to the site early in the day to beat the rush but ended up surrounded by people doing the same thing. “We are asking people to take their time,” he said. “Remember, we are trying to get 100,000 people in here... We are moving the population of Cork into this place.”

Some 228,000 people made the trip to Ratheniska for the championships last year, and that figure is expected to be matched this year if not exceeded. At 800 acres, the site is 20 per cent bigger than last year and more than 1,400 stands are exhibiting at the event.

Earlier today, interim Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and the Irish Farmers’ Association launched Theft Stop, an initiative designed to tackle the theft of farm machinery.

More than €1.7 million worth of property was stolen from farms in the last year. Theft Stop encourages farmers to mark their equipment with a unique serial number that will be linked to a national database.

Some 391 people will take part in the ploughing competitions, including World Ploughing Championships gold medal winner Eamonn Tracey and bronze medal winner John Whelan. Some 30 competitors from 10 countries are taking part in the European Vintage Ploughing Championships.

Organisers have laid 26km of tracks around the site, doubling the width of the walkways in front of stands to make it easier to move around.

Chief Supt Scanlan reminded people to ignore their sat-navs as they would direct them to roads that had been closed off for emergency use only.

Visitors travelling to the championships had been warned to expect delays on the N7 and N80 this morning.

AA Roadwatch reported congestion on the N7 northbound between Junction 18 Portlaoise west and Junction 7 Portlaoise centre, following this morning’s wet conditions.

There were southbound delays between Junction 15 Ballybrittas and Junction 16 Portlaoise east, while traffic on the Carlow road was also heavy.

There are six main access routes for traffic. Each of these routes are clearly signposted.

The 800-acre site in Ratheniska was drenched with a heavy shower this morning. Drier weather was expected to continue through the latter part of the day, with some bright spells.

Rain was expected for this evening and overnight.

Tomorrow is expected to be clear following the overnight rain, with a bright and dry start forecast in the morning and temperatures of 16 degrees.

A milder air mass is due to spread into the Stradbally area on Thursday morning, bringing with it maximum temperatures of 18 degrees. Drizzle and moderate south westerly winds are expected throughout the afternoon.

Those travelling to the championships from Cork are advised to take the M8 and exit at Junction 4, Johnstown, Urlingford where they should proceed on the R439 to Durrow. From here drivers should continue to Abbeyleix on the N77 and then continue towards Cashel, bearing right onto the R427.

Drivers from Dublin and the North should take the purple route, travelling south on the M7 and exiting at Junction 15 Cappakeel. They should continue to Vicarstown and then turn right onto the R427 for Stradbally.

Travellers from Limerick, Kerry and the southwest are advised to take the brown route on the M7, exiting at Junction 17 Togher, where they will proceed towards Portlaoise town.

Those coming from the West should take the Green Route on the N80, and proceed straight though Mountmellick town on the R422 as far as Kennel’s Cross in Emo. From here they should turn right onto the R429, continue to Portlaoise and follow signs for Bloomfield Cross and then Dysart.

Drivers from the southeast should take the N80 and continue towards Stradbally via the Windy Gap.

Irish Rail and Bus Éireann are offering a combined ticket for the championships and will provide a service from Portlaoise, Athy and Portarlington. The Bus Éireann drop-off point is near the gates for the purple car park.

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast