This is the World Ploughing Championships: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Precision ploughing. Picture:worldploughing.org
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Emma Flaherty caught up with a former host of the annual world event, Joseph Grogan, to get all the inside tips and tricks.

The 67th World Ploughing Championship is being held in Ratheniska, Ireland, this week, with with contestants and spectators traveling in from every corner of the world.

Among the 47 contestants are two Australian and two New Zealand competitors, including Tasmanian university student Daniel Gladwell who will be ploughing in his first world championship. He won the Tasmanian championship, and came fourth in the nationals.

“It takes practice to be a good competition plougher – also patience – but it can be a very hard thing to get your head around if you didn’t grow up around it. It takes time, and that is perhaps why there are fewer young people competing,” he told The Weekly Advertiser.

The former host of the championships, Joseph Grogan, was happy to offer some inside tips and tricks to help those who are attending.

His most important advice: there’ll be lots happening at the event, but don’t forget to see the actual ploughing.

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“Imagine the grandkids asking you in 20 years’ time about your trip to Ireland and you having to tell them that you went all that way just to lose track of time and miss the best part,” Grogan says, laughing.

So, whether it’s your first time in Ireland and you’ve just sat on a 22-hour flight from Perth or if you’ve just drove the backroads all the way from Donegal, you’re sure to find something helpful.

This is the World Ploughing Championships: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Joseph Grogan

  1. Arrive early: Covid-19 has put a stop to recent years’ events which means that the return will be bigger than ever. If you want to save your legs from walking miles just to reach the entrance, Grogan suggests arriving close to 6am to secure a parking space relatively close to gate. This might not seem too unrealistic to those who sourced accommodation in nearby villages, but if you’re travelling from afar, you should probably join the traffic now. The NPC website says that there are over 400 acres of parking.
  2. Boots: No matter how early you are or how close to the gate you get, trekking through fields of mud is inevitable. You’ll have to ditch your Havaianas for this weekend and go with Wellington books instead. “You’re not on Palm Beach now,” Grogan joked. The map of prospective stalls illustrates areas where you can buy a pair of boots on site, but that might be too little, too late. 
  3. Expect the unexpected: We are in Ireland after all. Although it is autumn, you should expect all four seasons during the three-day event. An umbrella and sunscreen are two staples as well as a spare change of clothes if you don’t want to be sitting in wet clothes the whole way home to Cork or Donegal. Don’t let the weather deter you though, it’s basically the same as being in Melbourne, just, you know, without the skyrise buildings and street art.
  4. Plan your journey: Grogan encourages everyone to visit the online route planner, as detours will be in place on the day. Your normal route could be reserved for buses or closed off for the event so to avoid last minute confusion, check first. There will be Guards stationed on most roads.
  5. Reserve your tickets: By booking in advance, you’ll save time at the gates and get a small discount. You can get your tickets here. 
This is the World Ploughing Championships: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Ticket from the event when it took place in Grogan’s field in Screggan, Ireland.
  1. Bring a picnic: Yes, there will be many food stalls selling all sorts of food from sweet to savoury and homegrown to shop-bought but the queues will be longer than your patience. As Grogan says: “You can’t go too far wrong with a flask of tea.”
  2. Money, money, money: A lot of the stalls will be small family-run businesses and may not take card payments, so you may need cash. There will be ATMs on site but, unless you want to spend half your day waiting to get to the machine only to see “out of order” displayed across the screen, it’s best to come with both cash and card, just in case. Remember: Ireland uses euros, so you’ll have to switch out your dollars. 
  3. What year is it again? We all have smart phones with google maps and virtual site guides but you’re not going to find a free charging station between the milking parlour and the dog shows. Grogan says: “I don’t want to sound like an old man, but grab a brochure at the gate and stick a map in the glove box of your car or in your handbag. You won’t get great service anyway, even if your phone does survive the day.”
  4. The ACTUAL ploughing: There is more to the day than browsing for the best bargains, grabbing free samples, and arguing with the kids over how many “last times” they can have on the carnival rides. Grogan urges us, lastly, to not forget to check out the actual ploughing events because at the end of the day, that’s what you came for.