Clare woman and former nurse Deirdre McMahon has been named the 2020 Teagasc/FBD student of the year.

Originally from Clare but living in Leagh North, Kinvara, Co Galway, McMahon completed the Teagasc distance education green cert programme at Salesian Agricultural College, Pallaskenry, Co Limerick.

With a degree in nursing under her belt, she left the wards to get involved in the family dairy herd.

She continues to upskill and has completed CPD courses and participates in discussion groups, including a women’s discussion group.

Her goal is an efficient sustainable dairy farm enterprise and she won the dairy category of the national awards on Tuesday night.

Drystock winner

The drystock category winner was Shane O'Brien from Whiterock, Midleton, Co Cork. He completed the Teagasc distance education green cert programme in Midleton.

He is successfully transitioning from a full-time career as an airline pilot to a major involvement in the family farm through a partnership arrangement.

The farm has store-to-beef, tillage and store lamb finishing enterprises. He has a very strong focus on cost control, profitability measures and sustainability.

Other land-based enterprise winner

The winner of the ‘other land-based enterprises’ category was Marian Dempsey, Hilltop, Skerrig, Cootehill, Co Cavan.

Dempsey attended Ballyhaise College for the Teagasc Level 6 advanced forestry course.

A lifelong interest in trees led her to pursue this interest more commercially, following her retirement from teaching.

The forestry business module was very helpful in assessing opportunities.

She has developed a business based around her compact forestry, focusing on forestry interpretative, experiential and appreciation courses for children and groups.


There were 19 finalists in the competition representing the full range of education courses offered by Teagasc.

In addition to the three winners, the following 16 students were recognised for being finalists:

  • Colin Cahalan, Co Galway.
  • Shane Clifford, Co Kerry.
  • Daire Comerford, Co Laois.
  • Patrick Conlon, Co Mayo.
  • Padraic Cullen, Co Kildare.
  • Gearoid Doyle, Co Wexford.
  • Laura Hannon, Co Meath.
  • Niall Healy, Co Tipperary.
  • Ewan Kane, Co Kildare.
  • Kenneth Keegan, Co Galway.
  • Conor Lehane, Co Cork.
  • Aoife Nic Fhionnlaoich, Co Dublin.
  • Mark Miley, Co Roscommon.
  • Denis O’Donoghue, Co Cork.
  • Robert O'Mara, Co Westmeath.
  • Susan Stephenson, Co Leitrim.
  • Head of education in Teagasc Tony Pettit said: “I would like to congratulate the winners and all the finalists.

    "The Teagasc/FBD student of the year award showcases the best students on Teagasc courses.

    "I would like to thank FBD for their continued sponsorship for the awards.

    "I would also like to acknowledge the support of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD."