A KILKISHEN family celebrated yet another ploughing success last week after a mobile mechanic secured the sixth All-Ireland crown for the one household.
Following in the footsteps of Gerard Frost Senior, his son, Gerard scooped first prize in the junior category of the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, County Laois.
This was his second All-Ireland title, having previously won top prize in the U-28 Junior All-Ireland in 2008, while his late father previously won four titles.
The mobile mechanic was delighted with the win.
“It was great to bring back a cup during Covid-19. It is nice to keep the tradition going in the family.
“Ploughing is in decline as ploughs are not being used as much compared to years ago, but maybe ploughing will come back again, if a deeper plough is needed.
“It is hard to win an All-Ireland title. It doesn’t come very easily. You might think you could win one next year, but it doesn’t work like that.
“Some years you could be ploughing well going in to the National Ploughing Championships, but things wouldn’t go right on the actual day. You could get a bad plot with a lot of stones, which is the luck of the draw.”
He said all ploughing enthusists take their craft seriously. “If you are ploughing a field for commercial use near the road and it wasn’t straight, you would be embarrassed , and would do it again.”
Gerard Frost Senior won four All-Ireland ploughing titles before he died in 2009.
His first ploughing match was in 1962 in Quin when he ploughed with a two furrow Ransome plough.
In 1969, he made the breakthrough by finishing third in the U-28 class at the All-Ireland series in Cashel.
Three years later, he won his first junior All-Ireland title in Rockwell College, repeating this feat in 1973 in Wellington Bridge, County Wexford, 1983 in Waterford, and 2005 in Middleton.
At this stage, his son was following in his father’s footsteps. Gerard Senior coached his son to All-Ireland glory in 2008 when he scooped first prize in the U-28 Junior All-Ireland in Cuffesgrange, County Kilkenny, while Gerard came second in the junior class.
Father and son were ploughing side by side from 2000 to 2008.
Growing up in a household where ploughing was one of the main topics of conversation, Gerard Junior admits he was “pulled along into ploughing”.
Having acted as a judge on Wednesday last week, Gerard ploughed his way to success two days later in the junior section.
“I did my plot on Friday, and it worked out well. You need a bit of luck as well on the day. Straightness is the key in ploughing. All the furrows have to be uniform after ploughing. You have to watch your plough all the time to keep it straight.
Gerard admitted there is more of an excitement buzz when the commercial stands and stalls are in operation at the National Ploughing Championships.
There was a lot of disappointment among farmers when these trade stands were ruled out this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“I don’t think there was a year when we didn’t attend the ploughing championships. It was part of the calendar, you just went. Even if I wasn’t ploughing, I would attend the event.
“When you are ploughing in the national championship, all the members of the Clare Ploughing Association support you and help out. There is very little tillage left in Clare. There is some in New Quay. Before the All-Ireland, Clare competitors try and go outside the county to practice,” he said.
His brother, Bobby runs a dairy farm in the homestead on the outskirts of Kilkishen.
Apart from preparing the ground for reseeding and a small area to grow potatoes for the house, Gerard, who started ploughing at the age of 19, said there is very little opportunity to practice ploughing on the farm in recent times.
Initially, Gerard borrowed a tractor and plough from his cousin before he purchased his own tractor and plough that could also be used on the farm, if needed.
His father helped him to hone his ploughing skills, and recalled there were often a few arguments if he didn’t follow his instructions.
When his father was young he had more of an opportunity to practice on the farm, which had beet, barley, and carrots.
Farming in recent years has become more specialised on one main enterprise such as dairying or beef.
Aside from ploughing for a farmer in O’Callaghan’s Mills recently, Gerard admitted he got very little opportunity to practice his ploughing skills this year.
In previous years, he used to travel to plough land owned by the late John Casey in Cahir. Gerard also participated in county championships in Limerick, Cork and other neighbouring counties.
“I didn’t have much time to practice this year. It was funny how it happened.
“A week before the ploughing championship, I changed the wheels on the tractor, put on the plough and did some ploughing on the Sunday.
“Stubble ground is completely different than grassland, which is much stiffer.”
Clare Ploughing Association chairman, Pat Quinn said Ger Frost is a great competitor, who travels to ploughing matches outside the county on a regular basis.
“Ger Frost deserves every bit of his All-Ireland win.”
Meanwhile, Pat Quinn presented a memorial plaque to Martin Liddy, Ballycar, Newmarket, for his contribution to ploughing in Clare for more than 20 years. Mr Liddy completed his first ploughing 60 years ago.
by Dan Danaher