All have marvelled at the bond between man and dog brought to our sitting rooms by the highly popular television programme ‘One Man and His Dog’.
Some of the handlers who have appeared on this programme are now familiar names with many qualifying from their respective national competitions to have the honour of representing their country at this year’s International Sheep Dog Trial, the pinnacle in the sheep dog trialling calendar, which this year is to be held on Thursday 6th to Saturday 8th September 2018 at Gill Hall Estate, Lurgan Road, Dromore, Co.Down.
Some 600 dogs were entered in the four national championships currently taking place and the top 15 dogs and handlers in each country’s national competition then take their place in the International competition. During the three days the top 60 handlers, made up of teams of 15 handlers and their dogs from each of the nations, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, will be competing against each other to determine an overall ‘International Supreme Champion’.
All handlers are seeking to win this prestigious individual award, however there is also the team competition, and the individuals will have a strong desire for their nation to win this.
The 90 acre field situated in the beautiful undulating Co Down countryside makes a perfect setting for a very challenging supreme championship.
Day 1 and 2 of the event consists of the 60 handlers competing to qualify for a place within the Supreme Championship, which is held on day 3. The Supreme Competition is restricted to the 15 highest pointed dogs from the Qualifying Trials irrespective of Country or Class.
In addition to the Supreme Championship, the Brace Championship and Young Handler Competition will take place.
The first of the national trials took place last weekend when the Irish National was run on Achill Island. The Irish team led by national champion Paul O’Donnell contains a lot of well known and highly experienced handlers such as World Trial winner James McGee, local committee member Frankie McCullough, Aidan Gallagher, Simon Mosse, J J Brennan, Con McGarry, James McLaughlin, Ned O’Keeffe, Wilton Gallagher, Paddy Fanning and Joey Walsh.
In the brace competition Ireland are well represented by local committee member John Maginn the 2018 National Brace champion along with brace runner-up Con McGarry while the young handler Caolan Byrne comes from a well known and highly respected trialling family.
Sheep dog trialling is a long established event, and the International championship, as a trial, has been held annually since 1906 with exception of the war years and during the Foot and Mouth epidemic in 2001 when incidentally it was scheduled to be last held in County Down at the Seaforde Estate and was subsequently held there in 2002.
As with any international event it would not be possible to stage without the help of many people and organisations. The site has been kindly loaned by James and Bill Porter to whom the organisers are deeply indebted as without a site of such proportion the event could not take place.
James Porter have been farming the estate since 2010 and it is now home to two of the UK’s oldest and finest pedigree breeds of cattle.
Since first showing pedigree Angus in 1997, James Porter has built his Old Glenort Angus and Uppermill Shorthorns herds into much sought after genetic lines whose pedigree female sales and semen straws attract international attention. He has consistently bred champion winning animals and is realising his long term ambition of creating two highly respected brand labels at Gill Hall Estate.
The help given by the main sponsors Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council along with local business sponsors Nutt Travel, Happy Dogs Boarding Kennels, Gerard Hamill and Sons, Lurgan Veterinary Clinic, Sheriff Homes, CCS, The Seagoe Hotel, Precia-Molen, Joseph Walls Limited, Provita, CCM Auctions, Logan Whistles, RJ Lyness, Rathfriland Co-op Mart, DT Dog Boxes, Alph Dog Trailers and DAERA, and the local hard working committee cannot be under estimated in the efficient running of such a high profile international event.
Come along to Gill Hall on 6th, 7th and 8th of September, take your seat in the grandstands and see sheepdogs handled like you have never seen before. Bring the family with you and visit the local companies trade stands.
The International Sheep Dog Trial will attract audiences from all over the world, with anticipated visitor numbers in excess of 12,000 during the three days of trialling.