Listooder Ploughing Society member, Andrew Gill, is on his way to the World Ploughing Contest in Minnesota, USA this weekend.
It is the first time Andrew, who was diagnosed with leukaemia three years ago and spent two years undergoing treatment, won the Northern Ireland title last year to qualify to compete at the world contest this year.
He will compete in the Conventional World Style class and will be joined by James Coulter from Hillsborough who will compete in the Reversible Class.
Over 30 countries will be represented including Republic of Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Andrew travelled to the USA with his family and supporters for ten days of official programme which will include practice time, visiting tourist sights and learning about local agriculture.
Listooder Ploughing Society held an evening earlier this month in the Primrose Bar & Restaurant in Ballynahinch.
Speaking at the event, Andrew spoke of his excitement at competing at the World Contest saying: “It is an honour to represent my family, Listooder, and my country at the World Contest this year in USA. I am only the third member from Listooder Ploughing Society to compete at the world contest and I am very much looking forward to the experience.”
Andrew has arranged to borrow a tractor and plough from Hailey Gruber, a young USA competitor who competed at the world contest last year. Andrew spent the past year preparing and fundraising for the trip to the USA.
Andrew said: “I am so thankful to the many people who have supported me in getting to America. Thank you to people who sponsored me, came to my barbecue and have made donations. I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have got in touch to say they will be cheering me on back home.
“I am extremely grateful to the Gruber family for providing me with a tractor and plough to compete at the event. I am heading out a few days earlier so I can get used to the different soil conditions and climate.”
Throughout Andrew’s illness, he and his family have been supported by the Northern Ireland charity, Friends of the Cancer Centre which has been Listooder’s chosen charity for the past three years. Listooder presented a cheque for £1,000 to the charity from money raised at their ploughing match earlier this year.
Claire Hogarth, fundraising manager for Friends of the Cancer Centre, thanked Listooder Ploughing Society and said: “For over 30 years, Friends of the Cancer Centre has been dedicated to making a real and meaningful difference to cancer patients and their families across Northern Ireland.
“The charity is here to enhance the quality of patient care and support through our life-changing and life-saving work.
“We do this by funding additional nurses, supporting local research and providing practical support through projects such as our financial grants.
“Friends of the Cancer Centre relies entirely on the generosity of the local community.
“All money donated stays in Northern Ireland, directly benefitting patients and their families.”
Listooder chairman, and Andrew’s grandfather, Martin Gill said: “Andrew is an extremely dedicated ploughman. We are all very proud of him especially given the personal battles he has overcome with his illness.
“Qualifying to go to represent Northern Ireland at the world contest is a mark of his positive attitude and determination that we all admire.
“On behalf of our members at Listooder, we wish him a safe and enjoyable trip to the USA and know he will be a tremendous ambassador for Northern Ireland.”
The World Championships are launched officially at an opening ceremony on Friday morning followed by two-day contest.
The winners will be announced at a gala dinner in Minnesota on Sunday night.
For more information and photos, check the Listooder Ploughing Society’s Facebook page.
As soon as Andrew has competed at the World Contest, there will be little time for Andrew to rest on his laurels as he will travel back home to compete at the Northern Ireland Championships to defend his title.