Irish eyes were smiling when James McGee, of Ballybofey in County Donegal, was crowned world champion at the 2011 World Sheep Dog Trials - and the Irish handlers landed the overall team championship.
James McGee and Becca,
2011 World Sheep Dog Trials champions.
Mr McGee and his dog Becca , fourth at the last World Trials in 2008, achieved their biggest ever success in the 4th International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS) World Trials - the ‘Olympics’ for working sheep dogs and their handlers.
The four-day event, the first to be held in England, was staged at the Lowther Estate, near Penrith in Cumbria, when a total of 240 dogs and their handlers from 23 nations competed for the ‘top dog’ title. (Sept 15-18)
Sheep farmer Mr McGee and eight-year-old Becca are among the best-known and most successful triallists on the sheep dog circuit in recent years, having secured countless accolades, among them two Irish Nationals and high placings in International Trials.
He said after taking the coveted title: “I am delighted, more so for the Becca than myself. She is probably the best dog I have ever owned and will be retired after today.”
Mr McGee also earned glowing praise from defending World Trials champion, Aled Owen, of Corwen, North Wales, who just failed the qualify for this year’s finals. He said: “I think Becca peaked today. She had a very good run. James richly deserves to take over my crown.”
Runner-up, after leading the field for most of the day, was Serge van der Zweep and his four-year-old dog Eve from the Netherlands, who just missed out on what would have been a first-ever success for a non-home nations competitor since the trials, held every three years, first began in 2002.
Mr van der Sweep, from Heteren, near Arnhem, a multiple National Trials champion in Holland, also finished third in both the 2002 and 2005 World Trials. He is a sheep farmer and also one of the globe’s best-know sheep dog trainers, running both personal and corporate leadership training clinics worldwide.
The Irish team, champions at the 2011 World Sheep Dog Trials. Front left kneeling are new world champion James McGee and Becca, left, with third placed Michael Gallagher and Cap.
In third place was another Irishman, the youngest member of the team, Michael Gallagher and his seven-year-old dog Cap, from Armoy, County Antrim. The renowned pair won the 2010 International Trials and finished fourth at this year’s renewal.
Other placings in the final were: 4 Tom Lawrenson and Clyde (Brindle, Lancs, England), 5 Erik Holmgaard and Joe (Fakse, Denmark), 6= Kevin Evans and Mirk (Modrydd, Brecon, Wales) and Roddy MacDiarmid and Jim (Cairndow, Argyllshire, Scotland), 8 Arthur Temple and Meg (Holmrook, Cumbria, England), 9 Denis Birchall and Bill (Dunlavin, Co Wicklow, Ireland), 10 William Gallagher and Groesfaen Roy (Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ireland), 11 Nigel Watkins and Jody (Llanddeusant, Carmarthenshire, Wales), 12 Eamonn Lawless and Bill (Isle of Wight, England), 13 Richard Briggs and Bill (Wennington, Lancs, England), 14= Alan Jones (Cwmtirmynach, Gwynedd, Wales), Mrs Lyle Lad and Shep (Georgetown, Ohio, USA) and Thomas Wilson and Sly (Gordonsville, USA).
Second place behind Ireland in the top team awards went to Norway, with the Netherlands finishing third. Prizes were presented by the Earl and Countess of Lonsdale, with the new World Trials champion receiving a cheque for £3,000, plus a gold dog whistle from dog food manufacturer Gilbertson & Page.
The 2011 World Trials were also supported by a Food & Country Festival, which, due to severe weather conditions, was curtailed to the final two days of the event. Nevertheless, it created all-round family interest, with many hands-on experiences for both adults and children.
A Country Festival marquee incorporated a 'Living Craft Village,' in which experts in traditional country crafts and skills could be seen working, while the Food Festival showcased local produce and cookery demonstrations. There was also an animal marquee and a host of on-field activities and displays. Many trade stands were also in attendance.
The 2011 World Sheep Dog Trials, Food & Country Festival was organised, run and managed by a local committee headed by Tim Longton, of Quermore, Lancaster, English president of the ISDS, and chaired by solicitor and sheep dog aficionado Nigel Davis, who has a local practice in Burton in Kendal.
Mr Longton thanked all who had “pulled together in extreme circumstances” to ensure that the high profile event could actually start on time and run throughout its duration, while Mr Davis noted: “You could sum it all up as challenging, but the way the public responded was quite incredible.”
Norman Lorton, chief executive of the International Sheep Dog Society, added: “Lowther Estate – both the crew and the family - has been superb and very supportive.”
For the first time, the 2011 World Trials received a tremendous boost though television coverage on More 4, produced by live event and sport specialists North One Television, who adopted high-tech production techniques, including high definition, super slo-mo, fence and pen cameras, and dog and sheep telemetry.
More4 broadcasted a two-hour programme on each evening of the event, presented by countryside adventure girl Ellie Harrison and motorcycle racer Guy Martin, with commentary from one of the nation’s best-loved commentators, Barry Davies. An event highlights show goes out at 8.10pm this Saturday, September 24.
Keynote sponsor of the 2011 World Sheep Dog Trials was CSJ Specialist Canine Feeds, of Bodfari, Denbighshire. Full details and results are at www.worldsheepdogtrials.org
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