Between 15,000 and 20,000 spectators descended on Mountbellew Mart in Co Galway to attend last weekend’s Kepak All-Ireland and All-nations sheep-shearing and wool handling championships. The largest crowd was recorded on Sunday, with favourable weather attracting families from near and far, while the nighttime MartBeat music events held on the grounds of the mart also attracted a strong attendance.

The shearing competitions did not disappoint, with a number of exhilarating finals going down to the wire. Welsh shearers Richard Jones and Gethin Lewis dashed the hopes of Irish shearers, holding off a strong field, including Ivan Scott, Jack Robinson, Denis O’Sullivan and Graeme Davidson, to claim first and second position.

The All-Ireland open was also an enthralling contest with Jack Robinson, Derry and Ivan Scott, Donegal, going blow for blow throughout the shearing of 18 sheep, with Robinson finishing seconds ahead and claiming the Irish open title.

A number of test shearing contests earlier in the day witnessed shearers from Ireland lock horns with shearers from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In the junior test young Irish shearers Joseph Scahill, Mayo and Andy Corrigan, Kildare, defeated Tomus Palmer and Alexander McDonald, Lochearnhead, Scotland.

Welsh duo Elgan Roberts and Lewis Jones defeated Ireland’s Paddy Dunne and Edward Cahill in the intermediate test. Wales also came out on top in the open test with Getin Lewis and Richard Jones holding off a gallant performance from Denis O’Sullivan and Ivan Scott. While in the Senior Test Alex Butler and Edward Cahill defeated up and coming shearers Ben Scott and Karol Devaney.

The mood amongst farmers at the event was more upbeat, but it is clear that the challenging spring and inclement weather dating back to mid-2023 has taken its toll on confidence in the sheep sector. There is more talk of farmers reducing flock numbers and market returns in the coming months are likely to have a big influence on producer optimism and the number of ewes going to the ram.

Welsh duo Richard Jones (left) and Gethin Lewis (right) claimed the top accolades in the All Nations final.

The Irish Open final was hotly contested by Jack Robinson (left) and Ivan Scott (right), with just a few blows separating the high-performing shearers.