Ploughing has always been a sport between neighboring farmers in Ireland. This sport reached a point in 1931 when two farmers from Kildare and Wexford had an argument over which county had the best ploughmen. As a result the National Ploughing Association was born and the first National Ploughing Championships were held in Athy, Co Kildare, with a total of 40 entries. Not much is known about this first plouging championship, but it is known that Wexford won the county championship with Wicklow and Kilkenny finishing second and third while Edward Jones won the individual title.
Early ploughing competitions were for horse drawn ploughs, and it was not until 1949 that tractor ploughing became part of the competition. Since then the Ploughing Championships have kept pace with the development of machinery and technology of farming equipment. Today the National Ploughing Championship is the largest annual exhibition in Ireland and is run by the National Ploughing Association of Ireland.
Today the National Ploughing Championships attracts crowds in excess of 100,000 people over the three days that make up the event. The location of the championships is changed each year, although in recent years locations have been revisited biannually (2000 & 2002 – Ballacolla, 2004 & 2006 Grangeford). The event needs at minimum of 300 acres to accompany the competition and the huge village of trade stands and livestock exhibitions.
The most successful ploughing champion in Ireland is Marin Kehoe of Co. Wexford who has won the national senior champion no less than 12 times in succession, from 1987 until 1999. The 2007 Ploughing Championship is to be held in Tullamore, Co Offaly and is expected to attract more than 150,000 people over the three days.
Today the championship is on such a scale that nearly 1,000 stalls will be present to showcase machinery, industrial equipment, cars, tools, gadgets, livestock, household items, books, animal feed and fashion among many other things. The event is truly a national event and attracts visitors from all walks of Irish life, and not just the farming community.