The Great Game Fairs of Ireland

Country Sports & Country Life

Failte Ireland

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The objective of the Great Game Fairs of Ireland is to organise events with real family appeal for all those who live work or play in the Irish countryside.

Horse & Hounds parade at Birr
Horse & Hounds parade at Birr

Apart from the fantastic in situ attractions offered by the Birr Demesne including the world famous gardens, the largest tree house in Ireland and the revamped Science Gallery, the Fair has a wide range of competitions, displays, demonstrations, trade stands and exhibits to appeal to anyone who loves the Irish countryside and rural traditions.

Birr Castle Demesne

Full details of the attractions of the estate which is open to the public throughout the days of the fair can be seen on However estate manager Michael Parsons highlights a couple of recent innovations for visitors to enjoy:

"Birr Castle Gardens and Science Galleries

A Domain of Discovery
The Gardens of Birr Castle and the newly revamped Science Galleries are rich in flowers, rare trees, extraordinary feats of science and engineering and wonderful wildlife. The Parsons family invite you to explore one of the most extraordinary places in Ireland. Created over generations it is an environmental and scientific time capsule.

Tree house adventure area

Tree House
Tree House

This adventure area inside the Garden houses Ireland's largest tree house as well as picnic areas, a bouncy pillow, sand pits and dens there is a small additional charge for the treehouse.

Living History at the Fair

In 2014 medieval jousting was brought to Birr for the first time when the evocatively named Knights of the Damned team travelled from the UK to thrill kids of all ages with their take on the 'Knights Tale'. This year the Knights of North from the English/Scottish borders will thrill the crowds in the shadows of the castle battlements.

It is thought that the present Birr Castle building was developed on the site of a previous tower house and bawn probably built by the Anglo-Normans. Birr Castle became a stronghold of the O'Carrolls who are associated with many castles in South Offaly and North Tipperary and resisted domination by the Anglo Normans and other powerful neighbours.

Jousting with Knights of the Damned in 2014
Jousting with Knights of the Damned in 2014

The Knights of the North take the field in 2016
The Knights of the North take the field in 2016

And history is not only brought to life by the rattle of lance and sword on chain mail on shields and the thundering of hooves of horses but also through the Viking Village set up under the battlements of the castle. The Viking theme has a resonance in Birr as it is thought that the Birr monastery was attacked by Vikings in 841AD.

Some of the Vikings
Some of the Vikings

The Viking theme is not only carried through in the village where families can interact with costumed re-enactors from Living History Ireland but also in the 'Have A Go' archery stands in the walled garden. Here families can 'have a go' with weapons of the period under the supervision of Cavan Instinctive Archery. Including being invited to slay the dragon

Sporting Organisations at the fair.

Quite uniquely the Fair is supported by all the main Hunting, Shooting, Fishing and Countryside organisations including the NARGC, FISSTA, CAI, IFA Countryside, CI, HAI, IWTF and the Deer Societies.

The main sporting organisations recognise the Irish Game & Country Fair status as the ROI's national game fair and we are delighted in facilitating them to take a strong promotional message not only to Ireland's country sports enthusiasts but also members of the public. Please do take time to visit the following organisations on their stands and also the many others who are exhibiting.


The NARGC is delighted to have the opportunity to sponsor the Main Arena Programme at the Irish Game & Country Fair 2016 in Birr Castle on the 27th and 28th of August next. The NARGC has been a big supporter of this event in Birr for many years and has consistently increased its association with and participation in the Fair over those years. As Ireland's largest game shooting and country sports organisation, the NARGC welcomes the opportunity to meet its many members who attend the Fair over the two days and to impart specialist knowledge on varying aspects of hunting and shooting. In addition, information on game rearing, trapping and grouse management will also loom largely. There will be a wild bird display which is always a winner, especially with the Fairs' young enthusiasts who always find pheasants, partridge and suchlike especially exciting.

All organs of the NARGC will be represented at the Fair.

John Carslake will have a desk highlighting his experience in and discoveries surrounding his project on Grouse on Boleybrack Mountain, near Glenfarne in Co. Leitrim. Chris Gavican will have a desk and will be of assistance to anyone seeking information on the NARGC's Compensation Fund, Personal Accident Scheme and related. This surely affords those attending a great opportunity to talk to Chris about the Fund's Dog Scheme and other Schemes as may interest those present Ger Burns and his team will have a desk on Game Development and in addition, will be able to assist on matters concerning the Club of the Year competition, held annually. Seamus Heraty will have a desk giving advice on all matters concerning pest control, trapping and matters related.

John Flannery will be present with his colleagues to deal with matters concerning the safe use of firearms, firearms legislation and related. Ray Devine will be present to let you know the latest on his surveys and research concerning woodcock and of course the ever popular, Emmett McCourt ,will also be in the NARGC Marquee to demonstrate and show off his talented culinary delights. There will be many more desks and commercial stalls and displays to attract anyone's attention or to meet and hear the views of ordinary sports shooting enthusiasts, whether the interest is game birds, deer, clay or target shooting.

The views of everyone attending assist the Association in the development of the kind of representation and services which members require and this has influenced in no small measure how the NARGC has so successfully operated and developed down through the years. The NARGC today has broad shoulders of representation and focus and covers an enormous array of field-sport interests, quite apart from the obvious ones involving game shooting and pest control but also other aspects of target shooting and issues akin.

Quite apart from the focussed activities of the NARGC itself, there will also be a number of commercial outlets in the NARGC Stand this year, as before. The finishing touches are currently being put in place for those who wish to acquire display space to exhibit and sell their wares.

We will be delighted to welcome all field-sports enthusiasts to the NARGC Marquee located along the front of the main arena which, like in previous years, will be in excess of 35 metres long and where our NARGC personnel will provide expert advice on the benefits of the Association in their many facets. If you come to Birr this year, be sure to pop in to the NARGC Marquee where you will not alone receive the traditional welcome experienced in previous years but where also, you will meet old acquaintances, make new friendships and truly feel that you are a meaningful part of the wonderful organisation the NARGC is.

The Busy NARGC Tent
The Busy NARGC Tent

at The Irish Game & Country Fair at Birr Castle

Countryside Alliance Ireland (CAI) is once again delighted to be exhibiting at the Irish Game and Country Fair at Birr Castle on 27 and 28 August. The fair gives CAI the ideal opportunity to showcase the organisation's work while engaging with members, potential members and the public in general.

The CAI marquee will this year host the Wild Deer Association of Ireland with their collection of heads and deer stalking equipment, renowned Irish stickmaker, Tom Kavanagh, with his impressive display of hand crafted sticks, Kildare Regional Game Council and renowned taxidermist Mick Dunne.

CAI Chief Executive, Lyall Plant, comments: "The Irish Game and Country Fair at Birr Castle is the perfect forum for CAI to meet and chat with our members and supporters. With fieldsports, foods and a superb atmosphere all coming together in one of the country's most stunningly beautiful locations, the Fair offers something for everyone who loves the countryside and rural way of life.

We are delighted to have a significant presence and to play such a vital part."

The CAI team relishes the opportunity to get out and about to speak with fellow country sports enthusiasts face to face, so please do come along to the CAI marquee where a warm welcome is guaranteed!

Lyall Plant , Chief Executive  CAI
Lyall Plant, Chief Executive CAI

The Federation of Irish Salmon & Sea Trout Anglers Conaidhm na Slat Iascairí Bradáin agus Breac Geal

The Chairman of FISSTA - Ireland's Premier Angling body - Mr. Paul Lawton, is delighted to announce once again their participation in the Irish Game Fair at the very special venue of BIRR CASTLE.

Paul Lawton said: "Angling generates over €800m. and supports 10,000 rural jobs to the economy (source TDI) and Birr Game Fair has played their part in promoting this vitally important country sporting business at this time every year in our mid season.

"This annual event is the highlight of our country sports season where we meet our angling fraternity to discuss and monitor the mid season salmon and sea-trout runs and returns from the great salmon and sea-trout rivers of Ireland. It is a very special time for FISSTA to promote the salmon youth angling programmes which are run by over 80 clubs on the island."

FISSTA National Secretary, Noel Carr said: "For the past few years we had all our members assisting in our many campaigns to conserve our wild salmon and sea-trout and in particular to stop the mega salmon farms planned by the state run BIM which, if granted a licence would wipe out our wild fisheries.

"Thanks to the support of the Great Game Fairs of Ireland and the Irish Country Sports Magazine who gave us access to this huge country sports audience attending Birr Game Fair, we are delighted that the application was withdrawn six months after last years Birr Castle Game Fair. It is events such as these that gives our angling and country sports the focus and impetus to intensify our campaigns and to bring them to successful fruition."

Everything For Angling & Angling Enthusiasts

Anglers from all the main rivers and clubs of Ireland now gather in Birr to participate at The Irish Game Fair at Birr Castle to meet and exchange notes on developments in salmon and sea-trout angling and conservation. The fair has built up a huge following over the past few years as a venue where clubs and businesses can promote their brand of sport angling to a fast growing market of angling enthusiasts who are planning and placing bookings for the 2017 season. This is where all issues are raised and addressed by club members who travel to what is now Ireland's premier country sports event in the countryside calendar for anglers. The Great Game Fairs of Ireland partnered with the premier magazine Irish Country Sports and Country Life which features our quarterly newsletter allows us to spread the FISSTA message of angling to a very broad country sports fraternity who support us in our everyday work. We are most grateful to Albert Titterington his excellent team at the fair and magazine for providing such professional fora and for their fulsome support and cooperation in helping FISSTA to bring salmon and sea-trout angling to a wider public.

FISSTA Stand at Birr Fair - Newcomers Fishing Advice

The FISSTA stand is hosting a one-stop advice centre where newcomers can get the following information and guidance;

  1. WHERE TO FISH - where the nearest fishing is available directions on how to access angling in your area eg salmon and sea-trout especially
  2. HOW TO START - and what tackle shop near you can supply you with the equipment needed to get started
  3. JOIN FISSTA CLUB LOCALLY - who can advise further both at the show and in your local area.
  4. WHO WILL HELP where to get tuition both at the show and in your local area.
  5. WHAT YOU NEED - what equipment you will need and whose stands to visit at the show.
  6. READ MORE ON ANGLING - what to read up on where to get the books.
  7. LEARN TO FLY-CAST ON HOLIDAY - where to fish and stay on an Irish angling holiday river.

FISSTA will be on hand at the Birr Game Fair to inform and respond to any questions you might have regarding angling on Irish rivers and lakes.

Snippets - Latest News and Views - Much More Information at Birr

Meanwhile comes news that FISSTA's affiliated clubs have reported an encouraging improvement in the spring and grilse salmon run for this season. There are a number of rivers that have also seen a remarkable improvement in the sea-trout numbers especially in the nothern and western regions.

The River Moy numbers are once again the most prolific with anglers reporting good catches on the renowned fishery pools around Swinford, Foxford and Ballina. There are a number of closed rivers or rivers just open to catch and release that are showing good numbers of salmon returning which should assist in their reopening in the coming seasons.

Sadly, angling participation on our rivers has declined according to permit and licence sales, but this is mainly due to the lack of investment in the sport and fisheries in the past.

FISSTA have been lobbying this new government and minister to support a new plan to bring salmon and sea-trout angling and stocks back to its former glory.

Much more detailed information on all of FISSTA's work on behalf of angling interests will be given in the upcoming Autumn edition of Irish Country sports & Country Life which will be published soon.

Make sure to drop in to the FISSTA stand at the Irish Game & Country Fair at Birr Castle, Co Offaly on 27th & 28th August 2016. You will be made very welcome.


This is the fourth year that the Irish Working Terrier Federation (I.W.T.F.) will be fully involved at Shanes Castle and Birr Castle, giving the I.W.T.F. the ideal opportunity to display their commitment to their work while engaging with all those in attendance at this prestigious country sports event.


"Our goal is of a vital, working and thriving working terrier service for the benefit of the farming and mainstream hunting communities. Through campaigning, lobbying, publicity and education we influence legislation and public policy that impacts on the working terrier world and rural activities. The Irish Game Fairs at Shanes Castle and Birr Castle are the perfect forum for the I.W.T.F. to meet and engage with our members and supporters".

The IWTF were invited to put forward judges for the ROI Terrier & Lurcher Championships at Birr.

The Salmon & Woodcock Pavilion

A fishy theme is the focal point for the 'Angling Village' at Birr Castle with everything one would expect at a top class angling show and more! Masses of tackle and plenty of bargains, boats, angling competitions, instruction and demonstrations, vintage tackle, fisheries, sporting art, taxidermy, and even speciality game and fish cookery with Emmett McCourt and other chefs in the Flogas Kitchen in the Flavour Fine Food pavilion.


APGAII will be attending the Birr Game Fair with a programme of continuous workshops for casting and equipment plus fly dressing covering the hot topics of today's game angling scene. We will have a full complement of experienced coaches to create a number of interactive learning and discussion groups for the serious angler as well as a number of attractions for the young anglers with games and fly dressing competitions plus casting classes for young casters. We will be running a casting competition based around skill as opposed to distance with two levels "professional" and "amateur" with prizes of kit and equipment.

Joe Stitt and Arthur Greenwood of APGAI with some good reading material


The action packed arena programme of the Irish Game & Country Fair features one of the widest range of entertainment to be seen at any event in Ireland. Since 2007 the performance of the phenomenally well trained horses from the Cochise Stud has been one of the demonstrations of that thrilled the crowd.

Cochise Horses

This stud is run by Derek O'Byrne White the well known horse trainer, who has both entertained and awed crowds throughout Ireland with the results of his exceptional training skills and horsemanship. Derek will be at Birr again this year with those well trained horses including a mare which is just back in Ireland after being crowned Champion of Champions at the recent European Championships. The display of the agility of the Paso Fino horse is demonstrated beautifully by the unique 4 beat gait of this exceptional mount and anyone with an interest in horses cannot fail to be impressed.

Falconry at Birr

Faconry is one of the oldest of the countrysports with its beginnings stretching back to 2200 BC in the Far East, though it's true origins are unclear. It was brought to Europe by Germanic tribes who introduced it to Roman culture.

It thrived during the Middle Ages as both a method of hunting food (small game etc.) and as a sport in its own right among the nobles of the time. Falconry also flourished in the Middle East and Asia where the crusaders learned much from their Arab counterparts.

However in Europe in the late 18th century, with the advent of guns and their use in hunting, the sport dwindled and was limited to a few who continued the practice. The skill of the falconer and the amazing aerobatical prowess of the birds continues to inspire awe amongst Game Fair crowds.

This year we are fortunate to have John Carmichael from the NI School of Falconry with his team of assistant falconers to put on impressive free flying demonstrations and a large static exhibition.

In addition there will be a second static exhibition from the Irish Hawking club.


Wide range of trade stands for the whole family to enjoy including a Gunmakers Row; a Fisherman's Row and a Gundog Row - all bursting with products necessary for your sport.

Peter Gott
Mouthwatering Game Pies & Much More in the Fine food Festival

Plus country clothing and fashion to suit all tastes and pockets; a Craft Tent; Art Gallery; THE FLAVOUR IRELAND FINE FOOD FESTIVAL; Sporting Holidays; Renewable Energy; home & Garden equipment - in fact something to interest anyone who lives, works or plays in the Irish Countryside.


The tented village will have a number of works of art on display including major exhibit from John R Moore, who has produced the two iconic paintings associated with the 2012 Great Game Fairs of Ireland - The 'Salmon on the Glendun River' to illustrate the overall angling theme of the fairs and 'The Massereene Hound' - a fantastic painting bringing the 300 legend of the Massereene Irish Wolfhound to life.

Massereene Hound
Fair Director Albert Titterington with artist John Moore and the painting of the Massereene Hound


Over a century ago one type of person made their living by keeping a wary eye out for the local village constable. Every rural county had at least one of these rogues - the poacher - who caused the local coppers no end of trouble.

Unafraid of the law or the judges who might well choose to send the poacher to jail or even to the colonies, he went his wily way on a 'shiny night' in an effort to put food on the table, or maybe even make a shilling in the process.

Steven McGonigal is keeping the traditional skills of the poacher alive with this unique act.

Stephen McGonigal shows Emma Cowan from the Flavour Fine Food Festival some of the gear he uses to acquire the rabbits that are used in the cookery demonstrations

Longnetting, with the help of his amazing little whippet towering over the nets in their attempt to catch coney is what Steven does best - legally of course - in an effort to reduce the rabbit population in infested areas of the countryside and help farmers protect their crops. He showcases this lost art alongside many of the poacher's long lost arts.

We have heard the poacher bragging 'no one can stop me especially a gamekeeper!' What he doesn't realise is that the keeper is in fact dangerous adversary just recently employed by his Lordship.

This is none other than the bucolic ,no nonsense and bewhiskered keeper known as 'Fast Hands Eddie Dash' - so named for his fame as bare knuckle fighter in his youth and for the fact that not only did he pack a fearsome punch in either hand but his hand speed was such that his opponents didn't see the punch coming. Although now slightly slower of hand and foot 'Fast Hands Eddie' is still rather fond of exacting summary justice with gnarled and rough hands or more often now with a pick axe handle on anyone caught poaching on his patch.

Fast Hands Eddie Dash

It's time to take the gloves off with regard to this slippery poacher. And how better way than to pit the former Bareknuckle Champion of Dalriada against the elusive poacher!

So if you ever had a hankering to see the wily ways of the poacher, all will be revealed at Birr - right under the nose of Fast Hands Eddie.

Will this be the poacher off to the colonies - or worse? We just have to wait and see!

The All Ireland Stick Makers Championships

organised by the Celtic Stickmakers Club

The championship will take place at the Irish Game and Country Fair ,Birr Castle, Co Offaly on Sunday 28 August

Champion will win an engraved tankard to keep sponsored by Countryside Alliance Ireland The John Mc Clelland Memorial Perpetual Annual Trophy. Second place Rosettes in each class sponsored by the Celtic Stickmakers Club. Special Memorial Perpetual Trophy presented in memory of Philip Lawton for the best fancy stick. Philip was the club's first secretary.

Stick Classes

Judge: Bill Walker from Scotland

  1. Mountain Staff or Hill Walker : wood all horn including ram, buffalo, cow and antler
  2. Horn Thumbstick Plain
  3. Wood Thumbstick Plain
  4. Leg Cleek: horn, wood - one or two piece
  5. Horn Market Stick : ram, cow or goat, nose out
  6. Wood Market Stick : one or two piece, nose out
  7. Blackthorn Walker : horn or wood or plain
  8. Wood walker, one or two piece
  9. Fancy stick, any carved head, wood, horn or antler
  10. Crook, any horn, including ram, cow, goat, or buffalo
  11. Crook, wood, one or two piece
  12. Walker, any horn or antler head
  13. Horn market stick, buffalo nose out
  14. Market stick, nose in, any horn including, ram, cow, goat, and buffalo
  15. Wood Market stick, nose in, one or two piece
  16. Ornamental stick. Any carved stick, not necessary practical
  17. Novice horn head, plain or fancy
  18. Novice wood, any wood head, plain or fancy

For further details contact : Tom Kavanagh 057-8629068 E:


A world record for dog training at Birr Castle will show that it's never too young to begin your dog training career.

That's what Game Fair director Albert Titterington said when he announced that the youngest dog trainer ever to perform at Birr Castle would be holding centre stage at the Irish Game & Country Fair and Fine Food Festival on 27th and 28th August.

This year's Irish Game & Country Fair at Birr will see nine year Cole Mathews in the Main Arena with his gundog act for the second time.

Cole and his father

Albert Titterington said: "Cole is the son of international expert 'Dog Guru' Keith Mathews, so it comes as no surprise that this 'Mini Guru' shows skills far beyond his years and is a natural entertainer. This year there's an extra special 'double' at Birr Castle when not one - but two - Dog Gurus take to the Main Arena. So while Dog Guru Keith Mathews is already an international star, 'Mini Guru' Cole is just starting off his showbiz career."

Cole will be in the Main Arena with Chloe, his Labrador gundog which he trained himself to exhibition standard. Cole is really looking forward to showing what he can do and introducing his two year dog to the world of entertainment and he also tells us to expect a couple of surprises as well - so watch out!

Cole and his labrador

'Mini Guru' Cole will demonstrate Chloe's training, such as steadiness to thrown dummies, retrieving, using the stop whistle and directing the dog to wherever he wants it to go around the Arena. And while all this canine magic is on show, the finer points will be explained by his dad, Keith.

Dog Guru Keith Mathews is flying back from his European tour to perform at Birr Castle and will introduce young Cole's unique act in the Arena, as a precursor to his own spectacular canine Master Class, when anyone can join in with their own dogs to learn at first hand some of Keith's top training tips.

With the NARGC ( National Association of Regional Game Councils) supplying prizes each day for the best gentleman, lady and child dog handler, this is a real opportunity for the public to get the Guru's training magic with their own pet. Don't miss it!

Cole and Keith are just part of the Canine Extravaganza at the Game Fair which is among Ireland's largest and most varied canine events, , international spaniel and retriever tests, horse and hound displays, the ROI Ireland Terrier, Whippet, Lurcher Racing and Showing Championships; and the Final of the Red Mills Five Nations Terrier & Lurcher Championships; the ESS gundog scurry; and the Victorian Poacher with his trusty whippet & lurcher. If you love dogs Birr is the place to be on the weekend of the 27th and 28th August

A Piece of Birr Castle History Brought to life

The Siege of Birr Castle in 1690

In September 1690 Birr Castle was besieged by Patrick Sarsfield and the Duke of Berwick fresh from their success at the siege of Limerick. Although they had a large force camped at Banagher the attack was carried out by 160 infantry and depending on accounts three or four field pieces - one of which blew up and one which remains outside Birr Castle today.

Sarsfield, who may even have previously been a guest in the castle had hoped it would be surrendered and did not wish to attack it but the Duke, the 20 year old illegitimate son of James II launched the attack.

According to the Castle archives "The infantry marched towards the castle.... colours flying , trumpets sounding , drums beating and bagpipes playing.... the besieged hoisted a bloody flag on top of the castle , being determined to hold out until relief arrived."

The Castle inhabitants held out valiantly even melting down the lead cistern to make bullets and their musket for proved quite successful against the attackers whereas the light cannon of the attackers were largely ineffectual against the castle's thick walls. Some lodged in the east flanker and are now displayed in the hall of the castle. The siege lasted for nearly three days and was eventually called off at sunset when news of a relief column caused Sarsfield to withdraw

Living History Ireland will recreate the siege of the castle on Sunday afternoon when Sarsfield's forces will attack the castle with cannon and muskets.

Attackers & defenders of the Castle
Attackers & defenders of the Castle

The Game Fair at Birr Castle also includes: a Fine Food Festival, Living History Village, medieval jousting; an action packed arena; Gunmakers' Row, Fishermans' Row Arts & Crafts, and a huge tented village of trade stands supplying everything required for the country lifestyle.

Add in one of the best clay pigeon shooting layouts in Ireland with three guns to be won, lots of 'have a go' opportunities including fly casting, air rifle shooting, archery, pony rides, children's play area plus all of Birr Castle Demesne open to the public for the two days - this really is one of Ireland's most actions packed family days out.

The Irish Game & Country Fair and Fine Food Festival will take place from 10am - 6pm on Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th August.

The event is sponsored by Failte Ireland

Ireland's Real Game Fairs © Irish Game & County Fair