Report by Heike O’Sullivan
Bonane is no stranger to champions.
Kerry’s 2019 top scorer, forward Sean O’Shea, already calls a couple of All-Ireland Minor medals his own. He is now gunning for his first Senior All-Ireland medal on September 1st to join his collection of County and Provincial honours, and Man-of-the-Match awards.
His near neighbour, rower and European Gold medal holder Georgia O’Brien, has given Kenmare Rowing & Boat Club one of its first two ever wins at the Irish Championships last month. Having now progressed from Junior to Women’s Senior Single Sculls, Georgia is destined to add to her medal haul in years to come.
Although Breda Lynch originally hails from Corran on the other side of the Priest’s Leap, she has long been adopted into Bonane parish. At last May’s All-Ireland Open and Speed Shearing Competition in Cashel, Breda won her twelfth official All-Ireland title in the Ladies’ Machine category against multiple All-Ireland holder Joanne Devaney.
Breda thinks, “It might even be thirteen. I have it in my head that I won it one year in Camp and I got no cup, so I believe I’ve thirteen altogether. I have proof of twelve All-Irelands because I have the cups at home, and you know what? I think twelve aren’t bad either,” laughs Breda, “Ivan Scott from Donegal has twelve now, too, so I’m in very good company.”
Unfortunately, we can’t consult the Irish Sheep Shearing Association’s (ISSA) records on this question because they were lost in that terrible fire at the Top of Coom in 2012. However, Breda is delighted with her twelve titles and was actually rather overwhelmed by her most recent success on the national stage.
“I actually only went up to Cashel as a spectator and to see Denis [O’Sullivan, Breda’s younger son] competing before he was off to the World Championships in France,” says Breda. “I’m so proud that Denis was asked to represent Ireland as part of the shearing team this year, and I wanted to see him shear at the All-Ireland before he went. Denis is shearing in the Open Machine category. If you’re an Open shearer you can’t get any higher, so he’s at the top of the ladder now.”
When Breda arrived up to Cashel, friends and family persuaded her to enter the Ladies’ category although Breda hadn’t been able to shear competitively for several years due to ill health. “I wasn’t prepared at all; I even had to borrow boots from Denis. Joanne is a great shearer and she was Queen of the Shears for the past three years. So, to get the title shearing against Joanne was brilliant,” admits Breda. “Especially at the All-Ireland, the judges want the sheep to be nice and tidy, and I like that myself. Even at home, I’d shear every sheep as if I was aiming for competition standard. When I’m finished and look over the sheep when I have my day’s work done, I’d be so proud then of my nice work. I just like good quality shearing with a clean sheep at the end.
“If you take PJ [Lynch, Breda’s older son]; I could sit down and watch PJ shearing all day long. He has a beautiful hand, he just peels it off them and it comes so easy to him. I learned the Blade shearing from my mother, Lizzie Keohane, who sheared very tasty and neat as well; she took great pride in it, too.” It was watching her mother shear and her attitude to the job that raised Breda’s interest in shearing when she was young. “She also shore in competitions; we shore together and she beat me at different occasions. Mum didn’t compete in competitions until I was able to drive to bring her to them as she didn’t drive at that time. She had never done competitions until we went out together.”
“Last year at the Top of Coom was the 40th anniversary of us both shearing there. I didn’t shear then because of my illness and it was only in the evening when I was looking at the photographs on the board at Creedon’s, I see this picture, ‘That’s Mum. That’s me.’ I was amazed. We had shorn there 40 years to the day. And if I had known it, I would have just gone up and shorn one. Just the one sheep, to mark that occasion. Eileen Creedon is organising a copy of that photo for me, and I really look forward to having it at home, too.”
The ‘Top of Coom’, of course, is Munster’s Premier Sheep Shearing Competition, fabulously hosted by the Creedon family year after year. Winning the 2019 All-Ireland whetted Breda’s appetite for more competitive shearing and last July at the Top of Coom, Breda won first prize in the Women’s Blade Competition and second prize in the Ladies’ Machine category. Her son PJ scored a 1st in Local Machine, a 3rd in Speed Shear and a 4th in Senior Machine. Younger son Denis was still abroad after his ‘French adventures’.
This is only August but it already looks like it’s a particularly good year for Breda. In addition to her cherished All-Ireland win last May, her sneaky fellow shearing aficionados had another surprise in store for Breda in Cashel. Current ISSA Secretary Eileen Coffey told me, “Breda and Denis are very highly regarded not only in Ireland, but in shearing circles worldwide. Breda has shown such devotion to shearing and has had so much success over the years, including shearing and winning against men, that we just wanted to do something for her. We at the ISSA can put forward people who deserve recognition to BISCA, the British Isles Shearing Competitions Association. So, last November, Chairman Tom Dunne and I put Breda forward and BISCA awarded her the Outstanding Service Certificate which honours those who have given outstanding service to the shearing industry.”
ISSA Chairman Tom Dunne took the opportunity of the Association members coming together at the All-Ireland, to make a presentation of the Certificate to Breda who “never saw it coming”. Having known Breda for near on 24 years now, I would like to be so bold as to say, Well, those who know you weren’t any bit surprised! We already knew you were special and now you have it in writing!
Many congratulations, Breda!