The recent heat wave may have cooled down somewhat recently, but in Tipperary town at the weekend the competition was still red-hot for the title of All-Ireland Churn Rolling Champion 2018. Churn Rolling has a long history in Tipperary town – dating back to the 1950s, when it was created by workers at Tipperary Co-op. The co-op is still the sport’s main sponsor all those years on. The sport which involves racing a tilted churn at speed up Tipperary town’s Main St is a thrill to watch, and was an edge-of-the-seat spectacle for the thousands of people who turned out to watch the event on Saturday evening.
This year’s championship was condensed into a one-night competition packed full of entertainment, with an outstanding contribution from the Tipperary Vintage Rally, while the night’s joviality and race commentary was provided by the ever-entertaining Willie Ryan ‘Bun’. The heats consisted of the Girls and Boys Mixed Juvenile Championships, the Under-17 Minors, and the Senior Men’s and Women’s Championships. Saturday evening was a warm affair. And while there was some cloud in the sky, there was just a little breeze to cool the competitors as they prepared for a sprint up Tipperary town’s Main St, while in control of a weighty milk churn. To ease everyone into the night’s fun, the Milk Maids melted hearts as they ran up the street, trying ever-so-hard to avoid spilling a drop from the glass of milk each one was balancing on a tray. Then, as preparations for each race began, and the contestants readied themselves at the starting line, the air seemed to stand still in unison with the nervous hush from the eager crowds. And then the starting signal was given and they were off! At times a well-controlled churn might wobble as a contestant would glance over their shoulder to see who was on their heels. There were even more cheers when, from time to time, a churn being raced at speed would strike the road surface with such force that sparks would fly. Of course, it was the finals that created the most tension.
The Minor Final came down to three competitors; Andrew Richardson, JJ Bennett and Andy Richardson. As the speed built up it was definitely going to be a photo-finish, and the title of Minor Champion was clinched by Andy Richardson. Meanwhile, with the 2017 champion Violet Ryan returning to defend her title, she succeed in making it into the final race and, in a nail-biting finish, she was first to reach the line in an incredible time of 14.2 seconds. It was a different affair in the Senior Men’s Championship which was awaiting a new titleholder, as the reigning champion, Kevin Kinane was unavailable for this year’s challenge. But the title was not so easily won, because in the final moments of the four-man clash, it became a race of two men – Jack Whelton and Thomas Nash. Breaking the finish line in a time of 12.65 seconds, Thomas Nash secured victory and became the Senior Men’s All-Ireland Churn Rolling Champion 2018.
Yet again, the sport of Churn Rolling has succeeded in entertaining thousands of people in the middle of Tipperary town. Such an event could only have been made possible through the generous sponsorship of Tipperary Co-op, who have consistently backed the town’s festival over the years. Tipperary Vintage Rally are also to be thanked for their hard work, entertainment and assistance. And of course we must thank the many volunteers that gladly gave of their time to make Tipperary town a great place to be.
The winners of the 2018 All-Ireland Churn Rolling Championships were:
Ladies’ All-Ireland Churn Rolling Champion: Violet Ryan, Cordangan, Tipperary.
Runner-up: Bernadette Leahy, Glenbane, Lattin.
Third Place: Denise Ryan, Kilshane.
Fourth Place: Megan Heffernan, Cordangan.
Men’s All-Ireland Churn Rolling Champion: Thomas Nash, Shronell.
Runner-up: Jack Whelton, Lattin.
Third Place: Damien Bourke, Bansha.
Fourth Place: James Doherty, Lattin.
Minor Final Champion: Andy Richardson, Tipperary.
Runner-up: Andrew Richardson, Cordangan.
Third Place: JJ Bennett, Bohertrime.
Under-14s Mixed Champion: Evan Ryan, Bohercrowe.
Runner-up: Leah Carew, Lattin.
Third Place: Alexandra Porte, France.
Fourth Place: Adam Ryan, Dromline.