Eileen Coffey from Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow will celebrate a major milestone later this year – representing her country at the World Sheep Shearing and Woolhandling Championships.
“This is a very exciting time for the team and the association; it will be my first-time representing Ireland.” She told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming with delight.
The 36-year-old - who grew up on a dairy and sheep farm, spanning six generations - has been the secretary of the Irish Sheep Shearers Association for the past five years.
She is the daughter of the late Pat Coffey who passed away suddenly in February. “Dad was privileged and honoured to be asked to be Team Manager for the Republic of Ireland’s shearing team in December 2018.”
“I will now stand in his place as Team Manager and as a World Council Representative; every country has two World Council representatives – Tom Dunne and I will fly the Irish flag.” She added.
The Team Manager will be travelling to Dorat, France in July 2019 with eight other members of the voluntary association - two machine shearers, two blade shearers, two wool handlers and two judges.
“As Team Manager, you are expected to support and help them in any way possible in the lead up to, during and after competitions to assure scoring points are calculated correctly.”
“You also have to ensure that each team member abides by our code of conduct and source sheep for team members to practice on while they are in France." Eileen added.
The Team Captain is Ivan Scott who currently holds ten All-Ireland Shearing Titles, three World Shearing Records and the Irish Ewe Shearing Record.
His teammate is Denis O’ Sullivan – a Kerry native with a number of Irish titles under his belt.
The blade team consists of Mayo men - Peter Heraty and Martin Hopkins. Peter has represented the country on numerous occasions internationally and is the reigning Irish Blade Champion; Martin is twenty and this will be his first time representing Ireland.
The wool handling team comprises of George Graham and Joanne Devaney. George is from Wexford and has competed in France, Wales and New Zealand.
Joanne – who hails from Co. Sligo - has competed in numerous competitions in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Australia.
Tom Dunne and Colin Crowe are the team judges; Tom has been Chief Stewart of numerous competitions in Ireland and abroad and has judged at a number of World Championships.
Colin is from Westmeath and has travelled internationally as a judge; this will be his first time judging a World Championship.
Each competitor will have to focus on training and fitness until the international event and will also have to fundraise as the ISSA is a voluntary organisation.
“At the start of each season, some junior shearers and woolhandlers attend I.S.S.A-run courses - a perfect way to enhance one's skill-set."
“On the shearing board, the men and women are so competitive but off the board, they are best of friends.”
The Next Chapter
Eileen became interested in shearing as a young teenager; she went to Donard Shears in Donard, Co. Wicklow to watch her late father compete.
“My earliest farming memory was when I was about fie years of age standing in the milking parlour with my dad who was showing me how things were done.”
“The shearing community are fantastic; we are like a family and we support each other where possible.”
“I look forward embarking on the next chapter with this community - travelling overseas whilst carrying the green, white and gold flag of Ireland,” Eileen said.