When the gates closed on Sheep 2018, which was held in Teagasc Athenry, sheep breeders and enthusiasts from around the country would have expected to be returning for the annual event in 2019 before the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to plans for the industry’s biggest event in their calendar.

Because of the five-year wait, it was always expected that the Sheep 2023 event would be a positive experience for those involved. However, I don’t think that anybody could have predicted just how much of a fantastic day it would be.

Sonny Jennings with his senior ewe who was the female and overall Belclare champion at Sheep 2023 in Gurteen. \ Shanon Kinahan

The 2023 event was held in Gurteen Agricultural College last Saturday, 17 June, with nine sheep breeds taking part in the showing classes, while another 20 breeds and breeders clubs on display.

The event had something for all the family, including over 50 commercial exhibits, over 800 pedigree sheep, pedigree sheep showing classes, butchery and cookery demonstrations, sheep shearing demonstrations, young shepherds’ competition and an event for training the sheepdog and the handler.

All of this, coupled with talks from some of the top industry leaders, made for the perfect day for Sheep 2023. Even the weather held up until later in the evening to help create the perfect storm.

Breeda O'Keeffe exhibiting on behalf of Susan O'Keeffe, judge Martin Butler and sponsor Rebecca Gallagher from Connolly's Redmills, with the overall Suffolk ewe champion. \ Alfie Shaw

On show at this year’s event were the Belclare Sheep Society, the South of Ireland Suffolk Sheep Society with their National Suffolk Sheep Championships, the Irish Vendéen Sheep Society with their all-Ireland championship show classes, the South of Ireland Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders with their all-Ireland championships, the Irish Texel Sheep Society with their All-Ireland championships, which also had a record number of entries with just under 270 sheep forward.

Cheryl O'Brien with her ram lamb who was the overall Vendéen champion at Sheep 2023 in Gurteen. \ Shanon Kinahan

The Irish Charollais Sheep Breeders held their all-Ireland championships and the Irish Blue Texel Society and Dassenkop Breed Society held their national show.

Declan and Mark Miley with judge Frank Gibbons with their overall Charollais champion ewe at Sheep 2023 in Gurteen on Saturday. \ Shanon Kinahan

Harry, Ellie and Edwin Draper with the overall champion Rouge, a two-year-old ewe, Kyleen Ms Money Penny. \ Shanon Kinahan

Sheep 2023: championship results by breed category


Champion: Sonny Jennings with his senior ewe.

Reserve champion: Liam Dunne with his ram lamb.


Champion: Breeda O’Keeffe with her aged ewe.

Reserve champion: John Doherty with his ewe lamb.


Champion: Cheryl O’Brien with her ram lamb.

Reserve champion: Cheryl O’Brien with her senior ewe.

Hampshire Down

Champion: Annora Whitley with her ram lamb.

Reserve champion: Caoimhe Gottstein with her ewe lamb.


Champion: Edwin Draper with his two-year old ewe.

Reserve champion: Oliver and Claire Keaskin with their ram.

Irish Texel

Champion: Arthur and Patrick O’Keefe with their aged ewe.

Reserve champion: John Neville with his hogget ewe.

Irish Charollais

Champion: Declan, Mark and Joe Miley with their aged ewe.

Reserve champion: Pat White with his hogget ewe.

Blue Texel

Champion: Shannon Murphy with her ewe lamb.

Reserve champion: Francis and Jennifer Donohoe with their ram lamb.

Dassenkop (Badger Faced Texel)

Champion: Nigel Hogan with his ewe lamb.

Reserve champion: Nigel Hogan with his ram lamb.