Competing against some of the very best in his class from all over this island, Castleisland’s Aeneas Horan won the All-Ireland Vintage 2 Furrow Trailer Class at the thronged, Co. Laois venue of Ratheniska.
Out of the 14 champion ploughmen in this category, Horan emerged on Tuesday with yet another All-Ireland title for the Brosna Road.
I remember I spoke to the Horan brothers after another such win by Aneas in 2007 and an equally magnificent achievement by his brother Timmy in the Vintage Hydraulic Two Furrow Class with his 1957 Ferguson TVO tractor when the All-Ireland finals were held in Ferns, Co. Wexford in 1998.
They told me it was all down to a series of childhood influences and sound, neighbourly advice from members of the North Kerry ploughing fraternity which led to the pair of Castleisland brothers winning All-Ireland Vintage Ploughing titles on years a decade apart.
From the 2010 year’s series of matches throughout North Kerry they won the right to represent their county at the All-Ireland Ploughing finals in Athy, Co. Kildare in September of that year.
As far as the influence went – it was all around them. They remember seeing a local ploughing match in full flight on the lands of WH O’Connor’s at Knockananlig in the early 1960s as they were on their way home from school. Their father, Neily Horan (RIP) was very involved in the organising committee of the local matches of that time.
Johnny Drumm Won 1964 Title
A couple of years later their neighbour, Johnny Drumm of RAS Tailteann fame, won an All-Ireland Ploughing title in 1964. That, the brothers agreed, “sowed the seed of interest and probably got us ploughing later on.”
It was a match in Knocknagoshel organised and hosted by Luke Keane in the spring of 1992 that put the brothers on a firm footing and convinced them to have a go on the highly competitive fields of North Kerry.
“When we got brave enough to compete at the matches in North Kerry we found a great welcome from the people there. We were learning and feeling our way and they showed us things we didn’t know.”
Timmy won his Irish title while ploughing in the Vintage Hydraulic Two Furrow Class in Wexford in 1998.
Aeneas kept the family flag flying just ten years later by winning on his 1941 Fordson in the two-furrow vintage class with his trailer plough when the event was held in Cuffesgrange, Co. Kilkenny, during the bone-dry September of 2008.
Their respective wins were no pan flashes as they had been knocking at the leaders’ door for many years and hanging out in the top five or six in the country before their well-merited moments of glory came to them.
The Horans take their ploughing seriously and their preparation for competition even more so. They, like all serious contenders, look into the type of ground they’ll be competing on and they set their gear accordingly.
Keen-eyed judges don’t rely on their eagle eyed judgement at times and I’ve seen them pulling measuring tapes from their pockets to separate competitors.
“You might get away with being a quarter of an inch out in the length of the furrow but you won’t get away with an inch because the competition and the judges are merciless,” said Aeneas.
Ploughed in Denmark
They have also experienced a European dimension in their travels: Aeneas was invited to plough in Denmark after his 2008 win and he was provided with a tractor by a man in Denmark and a matching plough by an Englishman who was in a position to have it shipped over there.
“We would do the same for anyone who would need machinery to compete in Ireland when the European championships come around. But, in the spirit of co-operation, it was the best we ever saw,” the brothers agreed.
Timmy works the home farm at Carhue while Aeneas puts his knowledge of machinery to good use as a salesman with Buckley Agri Ltd at their Tanavalla base in Listowel.
It is thought that ploughing as a sport between rival parishes has probably gone on for hundreds of years. However, it was in 1931 after a challenge between a Kildare and Wexford man about which county had the best ploughmen that the first organised match was held.
The outcome was the holding of the first inter county ploughing match with 40 entries and the National Ploughing Association was born.
The first National Ploughing Championships were held in Athy on that year and it cost £9 3s and 5 pence to run.
The numbers of people attending this year’s ‘Ploughing’ reached a record high today with an incredible 127,000 filing through the turnstiles. A spokesperson said this evening this figure represents a staggering increase of 49,500 on Tuesday and it brought the total attendance so far this week to 204,500.