I live in Clareen. It’s about seven miles from Birr, Co Offaly. We’re dairy and beef. It’s just myself, my father and my mother at home. I have one older sister, she’s living in Dublin. I work at home on the farm and then I teach as well, ag science in secondary school. We’re milking cows and we keep beef animals as well. It works well with the teaching, so it does.
How I got into ploughing, it’s gas. It was 2011 and the local branch, a small branch that I now represent – South Offaly Ploughing – wanted a girl to start ploughing.
They actually came to dad and were like, “Look, listen, you have two daughters, surely one of them will plough?” I just barely had my tractor licence at the time. Gillian my older sister hadn’t a fear of it. She wouldn’t have any interest. Dad looked at me and said, “Well, do you want to try it?”
I think I was just 16 and I said, “God, I’ll give it a go.” Then I went off to a local ploughing match. I had a little vintage tractor and a vintage plough. We turned up and we did something. I don’t know if you’d call it ploughing, but we did a little bit of rooting.
Then I borrowed a plough from another club member in Tullamore and I kept going to different matches. Low and behold then, I had suddenly qualified for the All-Ireland in Wexford the following September in 2012. Down in New Ross, it was such a wet day. I was in the farmerette class.
We went down anyway, I had my little vintage tractor and my borrowed plough. We ploughed and sure the rest is history. I’ve been ploughing ever since. I came third in 2015, that was the first big thing. It was great to get called out in the first three anyways.
The year it came to Offaly in 2016, I came first. I won it. It was great to win it on home turf as well. I came third in 2017. In 2019 I came second. Ah sure, we’ll hope for the best this year. I said I always wanted a gold, silver and bronze. So I have the three now, anyway. I’d like a few more golds though!
I’m ploughing this year in the farmerette class again. It’s on the Thursday. Last year the All-Ireland was cancelled, so it’s great to get back to it. Everyone is talking about the hurling All-Ireland and the football All-Ireland, but we’re all ranting about the ploughing All-Ireland.
Everyone is like, “Oh, the Ploughing is cancelled.” I’m like, “No, no, the Ploughing is actually going ahead. It’s the trade stands that are cancelled.” It’s nice to put a bit of emphasis on what started off the whole National Ploughing Championships – the actual ploughing.
At the ploughing match you start at half 10 on the morning of the All-Ireland. You have half an hour to do your opening split. Then it’s 40 minutes of judging. Then you do your middle, your general ploughing and you cast off to your neighbour. You have from 11.40 to 2.30 for that. And by God, you’d need every minute of it.
If you’re late finished, you’re penalised. The year I won the All-Ireland I remember I had three minutes left on the clock and I was on my last run. I remember looking down the furrow at my father and his face just said a thousand words. He shouted at me, “You have three minutes left.” I dropped the plough, I drove on and I won it.
Going to my first ploughing match I was able to drive a tractor, that was about it. That was one thing they said to me, “You have great potential. You can drive straight.” Once you’re willing and you’re able to drive straight, that’s a lot. Patience is another massive thing, because you have to take the good with the bad.
A lot of people say, “Oh you’ll go out there and you’ll do great.” But there have been days when you’d come home and you’d be feeling fairly peeved off and you’d say, “I’m not going out again.” That’s the same with every sport, you go out and you can have good days and bad days. The good days make the bad days all the more bearable.
I’ve loved farming all my life. I finished my Leaving Cert in 2014, I went off to Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and did a four year agricultural science degree.
I was with Grassland Agro for six months after that. Then I actually started subbing and working in schools. I went on then to do a master’s in education for two years so I could teach. I just finished there in May, so I’m teaching now in Birr.
I probably will teach for a number of years and then come eventually, milk and takeover the farm. I always say in class that farming is so diverse now. The farm is no longer handed to the eldest son.
A lot of my friends in college all have brothers, but they’re the ones that are interested in the farm and they’re the ones that actually do it. I think it’s so lovely to see, that something that was such a predominantly male orientated career, is now something that anybody can do.