1 Country people are different – the rain fell, the puddles grew, some of them into lakes, and people walked and talked and smiled and laughed and got on with it.
“I’m a hardy lad, now, it wouldn’t affect me,” one 14-year-old told RTÉ. “Anyone from the town, bring your jacket and boots.”
2 The long and widening roads – despite the rain, people were moving easily around almost all the site on Tuesday. Yes, the crowds were smaller, but that is also in part due to the record amount of trackway around the site, much of it “dual-carriageway” double-width. Fail to plan, as they say.
3 One way or another, the traffic keeps moving – the roads to Ratheniska are narrower than the trackway inside the site, but a one-way system of boreens keeps the traffic moving, both in and out. You might get sent 10 miles in the wrong direction, but everyone gets home in good time. Hats off to the gardaí and the National Ploughing Association.
4 The IFA election will be hotly contested – the IFA stand was a feverish hive of activity, with candidates canvassing for the five elections now under way.
With branch voting replaced by postal votes, every vote now matters as much as the next, so no hand was left unshaken.
5 But not so hotly as to protest at the Ploughing – there is an unwritten rule you don’t picket at the Ploughing; it’s best side out.
So I was stunned to see about a dozen people with yellow placards parading outside the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael tents protesting against payment delays.
Past president John Dillon was at the helm.
Was this a Martin Stapleton operation, some wondered? No, it wasn’t. It seems it was a solo run by a handful of Limerick and Tipperary farmers; a breach of Ploughing protocol.
6 The ICMSA election looks like a one-horse race, meanwhile. Denis Drennan, still undeclared, was in the ICMSA tent greeting all and sundry, relaxed and confident.
7 Charlie McConalogue might be the hardest-working minister – cabinet ministers were as prevalent at the Ploughing as umbrellas. And while Heather Humphreys, Darragh O’Brien and Simon Coveney looked fresh and relaxed, Charlie McConalogue seemed tired.
It’s hardly surprising; last week saw him sandwich a trade mission to Africa in between Monday’s Horse and Jockeying with the IFA in Tipperary and Friday’s sharp exchanges with the Oireachtas agriculture committee. Monday found him in Brussels at a council of ministers meeting. That’s an insane schedule. No wonder he has the odd Zoom meeting.
8 The best show in town or country – it’s no picnic, but the Ploughing is definitely the biggest festival of the year in Stradbally. And Ireland. And, possibly, Europe.