“I’m working here now for the past 20 years and I look forward to it every Saturday. I come down from Rathangan, Co Kildare, but being on the border, I have to let it be known, I am an Offaly man. Four of my nephews play on the Offaly senior football team and we are very proud of them.

I left school at the age of 16 and I began driving a machine with Bord na Móna. The machinery wasn’t my cup of tea at all. So, I went to work at Maynooth Mart where there could’ve been 700 calves going through the ring on any one day.

One day at Naas mart, the owner Mr Colm McEvoy approached me and asked if I could go and work for him.

That’s how I started in Naas. I was lucky enough to work under yard manager Michael Barry there; he taught me the ropes.

Then he brought me along to Ballinakill Mart which Mr McEvoy runs. Mick Barry then left to go to another mart, which he is very successful in now and I took over at Ballinakill.

Safety First

A yard manager meets the farmers when they are unloading stock. I have to keep an eye and make sure all stock are handled safely while they are here.

If we thought there was a problem with any of the livestock, we have to make a decision about calling the vet; there could be sore feet, lameness, colds, sore eyes etc. The vet will make the final decision.

We’ve a great team. All the young lads working here are farmers’ sons local to the area. They understand cattle which is the most important thing because with health and safety we have to keep all stock and humans as safe as possible.

The lads are the drovers; penning them when they get here, bringing livestock up the lanes, into the rings and back down to the pens.

There are always dealers knocking around. Mostly we have to keep manners on them, that’s all. They’d be looking for re-runs of the same animal and we’d say no, he is after going through the ring and give the farmer his chance. You can’t let them take over or they’ll take over altogether.

It all changed when COVID-19 struck. The farmers were not allowed in. They were down in themselves; they’d just drop their cattle and go. It wasn’t the same, there was no banter with them at all.

Everything was done on screen which meant a lot more work in the yard. We were lucky enough because what kept us going during COVID-19 was the craic between the young lads and the staff in the canteen, sales rings and office.

There are a lot of farmers that we haven’t seen since the restrictions lifted.

The banter

This year has been a different year. We’ve had big numbers of cattle the whole time so it was great to see the farmers back around the mart, in the canteen and the bit of life around the place.

Some farmers could come to you and they might be only here twice a year and they could tell you what we were talking about last year. The mart is an outing for them, they look forward to it and when they go home, they can keep their neighbours up to speed with the news of the area.

It’s a day out, it’s like going to Kildare Village for some people. That’s what it’s like. Do you think when a farmer gets in beside the ring they think about money? They start bidding like money is going out of fashion – they don’t know when to stop.

We’re fairly steady the whole year round, we’re never really slack. I’m usually here at about 6:30am on sale days and on a busy day it could be half seven, half eight in the evening before I am leaving.

I have to say the highlight of the year is the craic with the young lads, that’s what it is. They’d be talking about all sorts, about what happened during the week and that. It’s what keeps the thing going, there is always a bit of a wind-up with some of them.

I’m farming as well. I have my own farm; I have sucklers and a few beef cattle that keep me busy during the week.

I play 25s a couple of nights a week. My daughters love that as well so we head off two or three nights a week playing. We could go to Emo in Co Laois and we play a good few house games as well.

I sometimes work at Ballymahon Mart in Co Longford for William Jones, the manager there. That’s a Thursday sale with beef cattle, store heifers, cows sold there.

Twenty-twenty-three could be strange sort of year. There’s a lot of cows selling and lads getting out of sucklers, which is unusual, so I don’t know what this coming year will bring but sure if it’s as good as 2022 we’ll be looking forward to it.”

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