dawn of the mud

From shorn sheep to stripped-off farmers: We're at 'The Ploughing' - and here's what's happening

You probably won’t be able to move for the number of politicians pressing the flesh…

Updated at 10.40am

ANOTHER SURE SIGN that summer’s over – it’s time for the National Ploughing Championships. 

Described sometimes (and entirely inaccurately) as the ‘Electric Picnic for farmers’, the event takes place once again at Ratheniska in Co. Laois, not a million miles away from the site for the annual music festival.

Up to 200,000 visitors are expected to descend on the 800 acre site over the next three days. There are over 1,500 stands at the event – and, with an election on the horizon, expect more than a scattering of politicians pressing the flesh and shoring up the rural vote alongside the usual exhibitors.

First, the important stuff…

Traffic and Travel landed in Portlaoise at around 8.40am, but we only made it to the site at around 9.30. So, yes, traffic is slow approaching the site.

It’s muddy in and about the car parks too – which is slowing things down a little for stewards.

You’ll find full details of carpark layouts, along with directions to the site from the north, south, east and west at the National Ploughing Association website. Portarlington, Portlaoise and Athy are the closest train stations.

To get your bearings, you’ll find aerial photos of the site here, along with a Garda traffic plan.

The site is very well sign-posted from all the main routes serving the area – and the advice from gardaí is to follow the signage, rather than venturing off on your own madcap rural adventure down the bothareens of Laois (we’re paraphrasing).

What’s been happening so far?

The crowds are still flooding into the site – but some hardy souls from the media have been here since before dawn: namely, the folks at RTÉ.

We’ve some tips on what to see today further down the page here – first, some of the sights from day one of the action in Co Laois:

There’s no end of food options. From the fancy to the not so fancy.

Or if you’re feeling adventurous…

What to do…

Now – here’s our (entirely inexpert) pick of some of the sights to see at ‘The Ploughing’ later.

Pull it together, gentlemen… 


The ‘All Ireland Tractor Building Challenge’ returns to Ratheniska, “by popular demand” according to a press release from the ‘Irish Vintage Scene’.

Three tractor-build teams compete over the three days to put together a disassembled vintage Ferguson 20 tractor in the fastest time.

It sounds pretty complex:

The teams start with approximately 40 components and 120 nuts, bolts, springs and clips, and in less than 10 minutes the tractor will be complete and running.”

The fastest time last year was 7 minutes, 18 seconds.

Check it out: 

Ferguson20Build / YouTube

Those ‘cheeky’ farmers

Young farmers have been stripping off for a new calendar, and they’ll be telling us why at the Macra na Feirme stand this morning, at 10.30am (Row 23, Stand 401, Block 3).

The farmers have been ‘getting cheeky’ (their phrase) to support the St Patrick’s Mental Health Services ‘Walk in my Shoes’ campaign.

All will be revealed later today.

We’re told the models will be on hand selling the calendars, which cost €10 each, and are expected to sell out quickly.

farmers Macra Macra

Shear mastery 

Sheep-shearing, seen up close, can be a strangely hypnotic thing to watch.

Expert shearer George Graham is helming demonstrations in Laois this week.

There’s shearing & handling shows today, while tomorrow world record holder Ivan Scott will be in action for the ‘All Ireland Lamb Shearing Championship 2015′.

Check out Ivan in action in the clip below (and if you’re interested, watch getting a masterclass from George last year in this video).

Mike Davidson / YouTube

The farmer wants a wife

If you’re on the hunt for love, or simply looking for something a little different to gawk at after a busy morning of sheep-shearing demonstrations and tractor-builds, you might want to check out Horse Racing Ireland’s ‘Dating at the Races’ game.

We’re not entirely sure what the questions will be, but it sounds like a sort of Blind Date format. At The Races presenter Matt Chapman will act as MC.

According to their blurb:

At 3pm each day Matt will give attendees the opportunity to take part in ‘Dating at the Races’ where the lucky lady/man will have the chance to select one of three potential suitors and win a day at the races including hospitality for the winning couple and a group of their friends.

shutterstock_224474977 Shutterstock / Balkonsky Shutterstock / Balkonsky / Balkonsky

Nevermind the Vengaboys

There was a huge focus on ’90s nostalgia at the Electric Picnic this year. The Vengaboys, for one, drew such a crowd that there were almost as many people outside their marquee as inside it, as the Dutch Eurodance troupe knocked out the hits.

You’re not going to see a Vengaboy at the Ploughing – but another slightly-less-glamorous 1990s hitmaker will be packing them in again.

Believe it or not, Richie Kavanagh had one of the top-selling singles in Irish history in 1996 with ‘Aon Focal Eile’ (beloved of 9-year-olds at the time, who could insist to their parents they weren’t swearing, ‘it’s Irish!’).

Anyway, he’s back in Laois again this year with his new novelty album, following the release of the single ‘My Girlfriend has a new iPhone’ (technically an update of an old song, but still*).

Check back on and follow @DaraghBroph on Twitter for more from the Ploughing later.

* I stole that gag from someone but I can’t remember who. Apologies whoever you are (while we’re at it, sorry for the gag too). 

Read: Straight lines, traffic jams and Garda fans: Here’s 8 things we learned at the National Ploughing Championships…

Read: Dried locusts and breakfast rolls top the menu as Ploughing 2014 kicks off…

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