From what I can gather from the Horan brothers, Aeneas and Timmy, competing in the National Ploughing Championships is a lot more than taking on the opposition along the furrows in the fields where the titles are determined. And they should know.
Aeneas has just landed his fourth All-Ireland title since 2008. The others came in 2012, 2015 and the latest just last week in the poetically named Ratheniska in Co. Laois.
While Timmy was glad to settle for one in 1998 in the Vintage Hydraulic Two Furrow Class with his 1957 Ferguson TVO tractor in Ferns, Co. Wexford.
Trailer Vintage Class 2021
Aeneas won his most recent title in the Trailer Vintage class on a Fordson Model N tractor which left the factory floor in 1931 and a plough which turned its first sod in the World War II year of 1944.
While having your tractor and plough in prime order and tuned to the nearest millimeter is of the utmost importance, the furrows you leave behind must be just as immaculate if you’re hoping to land the top prize.
The adjudicators watch you like a hawk if you’re in the top two or three and if they think you’re a likely winner the scrutiny becomes even more intense.
Too Wide, Too Narrow, Too Deep
Even a half inch too wide, too narrow, too deep or not deep enough will see you relegated to the placings.
“I’ve seen them taking measuring tapes from their pockets at times to separate winners from runners-up,” said Aeneas.
“If you veer off one quarter of an inch and you try to correct yourself they’ll spot the mistake and they’ll spot the correction – they’re that sharp with the markings,” said Timmy who acts as advisor and travelling companion to Aeneas.
The brothers are into ploughing due to a combination of childhood influences and sound, neighbourly advice from members of the North Kerry ploughing fraternity.
They recall seeing a local ploughing match on the lands of WH O’Connors 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 these events at that time.
A few years later their neighbour, Johnny Drumm of RAS Tailteann fame, won an All-Ireland U-28 Tractor Ploughing title in Danesfort in Kilkenny in 1964.
Johnny Drumm’s Hero Status
The tragic Johnny Drumm already enjoyed hero status from his Rás Tailteann exploits and his ploughing title only added to that status.
The Horan brothers agree that it was that win by their neighbour that really sowed the seeds of interest and got them ploughing later on. And how they honoured his memory and his status.
“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,” they said.
Timmy Raised a Flag in Wexford
Timmy hoisted the first Horan family flag with his Irish title while ploughing in the Vintage Hydraulic Two Furrow Class in Wexford in 1998.
Aeneas kept that 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.
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.
Hard Ground in Ratheniska
“The ground at Ratheniska was very hard last week and it’s easier to make a mistake on that kind of ground more so than if it’s more mellow.
They have also experienced a European dimension in their ploughing careers. 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.
Tractor and Plough in Readiness
“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 cooperation, it was the best we ever saw,” the brothers agreed.
Timmy works the home farm at Carhue and is still delighted with his All-Ireland Vintage Hydraulic Two Furrow Class title from Wexford in 1998
However, Aeneas is keeping the tractor and the plough in readiness for wherever the next competition will be held.
Meanwhile, he puts his deep knowledge of machinery to good use as a salesman with Buckley Agri Ltd at their Tanavalla base in Listowel.
You can contact The Maine Valley Post on…Anyone in The Maine Valley Post catchment area who would like to send us news and captioned photographs for inclusion can send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org Queries about advertising and any other matters regarding The Maine Valley Post can also be sent to that address or just ring: 087 23 59 467.