Surrounded by thousands of cheering fans in a huge marquee, spotlights shining on the stars and CCTV highlighting the good bits and streaming the images around the world I could have been forgiven for thinking I was at Croke Park, Dublin watching One Direction. But I was closer to home, in Gorey, experiencing the frenzied atmosphere that accompanies the Golden Shears: World Sheep Shearing and Wool Handling Championships.
This international celebration of sheep shearing has its origins in the Golden Shear competition that started in Masterton, New Zealand. The first international Golden Shears was in the UK in 1977 and is held, in various countries, every two to four years. This year it was held in Gorey, Ireland, near the Amber Springs hotel and sponsored by Slaney Foods among others.
The event lasted nine days although it really only opened to the public last Thursday. Early events included the ‘Queen of the Wool’ beauty competition.
Over the four public days there were Irish foods to enjoy, live music, sheaf throwing, tug-of-war and sheep dog trials.
But the main event was in the sheep shearing dome where various events took place with the big competitions on Saturday and Sunday.
I was there to watch the finals of the Junior and Intermediate competitions. At first it was tricky to understand what was going on but I soon got the hang of it. The shearers have to get their sheep shorn as fast as possible but there are points added for penalties such as ‘nicking’ the sheep. One shearer did more than just nick his and the blood was visible from where I was sitting and he got an immediate 2 point penalty – usually they went up by 0.1! It made for interesting viewing because fast and furious did not always win – though show and sure won’t either if you are too slow.
Anyway, Stephen Morgan from Northern Ireland won the Junior shearing (5 sheep) in a time of 10mins 59 seconds and Dylan McGruddy from New Zealand won the Intermediate final (6 sheep) in 8mins 28 seconds.
If you think that is fast, in the final final on Sunday (I went on Saturday) the winner was Rowland Smith of New Zealand who sheared 20 sheep in 15mins 55 seconds.
Curiously, the programme gives many details of the entrants including their marital status. As it happens, a good proportion are single but Rowland is not. So if you were looking for a quick, free Brazilian you will have to look elsewhere.
Unfortunately the weather was not kind to the event and the whole place was a quagmire on Saturday and the rain hardly let up. For more info visit http://goldenshearsireland.com/