The chair of the National Ploughing Association (NPA), Michael Mahon, has participated in more ploughing matches than most – both as a competitor and as an organiser.
His advice for ploughing competitors is simple: “It’s all about practice, no different to hurling or football.”
Looking ahead to Ploughing 2023, he sees the championships as an opportunity for farmers to enjoy the hotly-contested competitions and get a welcome break from working the land.
“I farm tillage, cattle and sheep at home in Blueball, Co Offaly. We have a bit of everything really and just hope that if there’s a year one doesn’t do too good, the others will pick up for it,” he says.
“Setting out plots last week, most of the fields down around Ratheniska are clear, but there is still a lot of corn to be cut around Laois. It has been a tough year for tillage and this event will be something for people to look forward to.”
Based on his own long and varied history in ploughing championships at county and national level, he encourages anyone interested in getting involved to first contact the organisers of their local ploughing match.
“Every county will have at least one match per year while larger and more tillage-leaning counties can run more than five,” he says.
“If you are interested in getting involved, if you’re starting out ploughing, reach out to your county ploughing match. They have classes to suit everyone.
“I came second in the junior class back in 1985. In 1986, I missed the test match by half a point. It was a Massey I would have had back then, probably a 165 and I stuck with the Masseys since.”
He took on the Offaly director role with the NPA for the first time in 1989.
“Since then, I went on to be the only Irishman to chair two World Ploughing competitions – 2006 and 2022.”
He describes the organisation of the national championships as a “massive amount of work – it needs a huge area to put it on.
“There was about 700ac needed in Ratheniska last year and it took a lot of work even just to mark the plots.”
Looking forward to Ploughing 2023, Mahon says that attracting younger people to competition ploughing has been relatively easy with good interest coming from the younger generations.
“Even when we were setting out the plots, the number of young people was great. You couldn’t believe it and it’s absolutely great to see.
“We have the novice class which is mostly people aged under 21. This year there will be 25 competing, five in reversible and 20 in conventional.”
And the chair says he would pick a conventional ploughing class to judge or participate in ahead of any reversible one, if he had to choose.
“Conventional would be my class, even if I was to judge I would sooner judge conventional. Reversible is a lot harder and you need to know it inside out for judging.”