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Eoghan Mills, 7, and his brother Conor, 4, at last year's National Ploughing Championships in Athy Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Ploughing Championships: What you need to know

Pole-climbing, Axe Factor, Chinese scouts … and some ploughing – it’s your survival guide to agricultural Ireland’s highlight of the year.

THE 80th National Ploughing Championships are to be launched by President Mary McAleese at noon today. It’s not all sheep, cows and tractors in Athy, Co Kildare (although there is a fair bit of that).

Whether you intend being one of the 180,000 visitors expected there in the next three days or not, you might want to know the following…

Getting there will take time:

The AA is warning that traffic is slow on all approaches to Athy, especially on the R427 Abbeyleix/Stradbally Road, R428 Stradbally/Athy Road, N78 Kilkenny/Athy Road and N80 Carlow/Portlaoise Road. The driving arrangements are in full here.

More transport arrangements:

  • The R428 Stradbally/Athy Road is closed between Woodstock Street and Castlemitchell from 8am-8pm today, tomorrow and Thursday.
  • Parking is restricted on William Street, Duke Street and Leinster Street.
  • Bus Éireann is putting on services from Clonmel and Kilkenny to Athy. Timetables and details are here.
  • Irish Rail is bringing people to Portarlington, Kildare and Athy and then operating a bus shuttle to bring rail passengers from those stations to the NPC site. Details are here.

There will be pole-climbing:

No, not that type of pole-climbing. Tut tut. The Husqvarna All-Ireland Pole Climbing Championship is in the Forestry Arena along with the Axe Men Challenge and Timber Carvers, and boots and full lumberjack attire will be worn.

They’ll be keeping the sounds ‘country’:

Not sure of your Mike Denver from your Jimmy Buckley? The Farmers’ Journal Country Sound Pavilion allows fans of Irish country ‘n’ western to meet their musical heroes.

They have the best stand and competition names ever:

Presenting… the Sustainable Suckling Area, the Most Appropriately Dressed Competition, and the Axe Factor. Exhibitors in the ‘Livestock’ area are invited to locate under headings such as Fattening, Genetics and Grasscare management.

They have an app:

Both Android AND iPhone, if you don’t mind. The Farmers Journal Ploughing 2011 apps are here (android) and here.

The Chinese are coming:

Broadcaster Ella McSweeney has tweeted this interesting nugget:

Incidentally, Ella has been voted one of Ireland’s “hottest Ag journalists” according to Macra na Feirme’s Young Farmer Survey, published today. She was voted no.1 at 51 per cent with Helen Carroll at 10 per cent and Darragh McCullough at 12 per cent. Oh, and only 15 per cent of young farmers admitted to reading Paul Galvin’s fashion column in the Indo. Sixteen per cent said they didn’t know who he was.

They make allowances for the city slickers:

This advice from the NPA (National Ploughing Association) media accreditation centre: “Allow considerable travel time for journey to site (equivalent to city rush hour).”

It’s meet-and-greet central:

While incumbent President Mary McAleese is the special guest today, those with an eye on the Áras next month are also hitting the road to Athy. Labour’s Michael D Higgins is heading there today and independent Sean Gallagher and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness had this entirely comfortable-looking meeting there this morning:

Pics: Tony Kinlan

Apparently, there is some ploughing action:

There are 19 national championships and 300 competitors, male and female, involved. Competition winners will be posted here as they achieve success.

Ploughing – it’s not Electric Picnic for farmers. It’s…

Thanks, @nmcgivney.

Richie Kavanagh and Declan Nerney in one room:

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