A cracking entry both in terms of quantity and quality was forward for the Northern Ireland Blackface Sheep Breeders' Association Show at Ballymena Auction Mart, on Monday.

Following the successful inaugural event in 2015 in the Kings Hall, Belfast, this year’s event proved bigger and better with entries up by almost 100 head to 440 comprising of 202 North-type sheep and 238 South-type.

Needless to say, it also attracted huge numbers of flockmasters from all corners Scotland, with many travelling up from Tullamore Show in the South of Ireland the previous day to attend; others enjoying a long weekend of it and viewing various flocks in the north before the show, and even more travelling over just for the day.

General ringside opinion was very much that the show was a huge success with the overall quality of sheep forward even better than it was in 2015.

Both judges, David Baillie, Calla, Carnwath, and William Dunlop, Elmscleugh, Dunbar, were most impressed by the sheep too.

"It was a great show of sheep all the way through," said Mr Baillie who selected the top winners in the North-type section, while Mr Dunlop added: "The quality of the sheep was absolutely fantastic throughout with little between the top entries in virtually all classes."

Both judges were particularly impressed by the quality of females on show too and found their supremes amongst the ewes.

Leading a bumper class of north-type ewes and securing the overall championship in the section was a three-crop ewe from Billy Grant and sons Seamus and Joseph who run 150 ewes in their Cloughfin flock from Killaloo.

Their show stopper, which was described by Mr Baillie as "a very good ewe with great size, shape and hair," was a daughter of a 5000gns Harkin, bred from a ewe by TT – a twin brother to the 12,000gns Harkin. No stranger to the limelight, she was champion at Carndonagh and Clonmany earlier in the season.

Adding to the celebrations, the Grants also bagged the reserve male championship with a three-shear ram bought for £500 from Woolfords at Stirling in 2017 from his breeders, Matthew Hamilton and son also Matthew. He is by a 6500gns Harkin tup.

Brothers George and John Conway and their respective sons, Eamonn and Leo, were in fine form too, winning both the reserve overall championship with the second prize ewe to the supreme and the male championship with the first prize tup lamb.

Their top winner was the reserve winner from Omagh Show, a two-crop ewe by a Woolfords tup used on loan by a 2600gns Conway, while the dam, a home-bred ewe is by a £6500 Woolfords.

Leading the males was the red ticket holder from the ram lamb class which attracted an entry of 44 head. Champion at Plumbridge, this cracker also boasts the best of genetics being sired by a Woolfords tup used on loan by the 2000gns Conway lamb that stood champion at Ballymena in 2017, out of a ewe by a £1300 Achdregnie.

Mr Dunlop also had his work cut out for him amongst the south-type but soon found his overall in the first prize ewe from Graham Wallace and his partner Natasha Blair's 250-strong Shilnavogie flock, established by Graham's late father Sam Wallace. Bred in Scotland, by Hugh and Alan Blackwood, and bought as a rough hogg at Stirling in 2017, this stylish two-crop ewe is by the £160,000 Dalchirla lamb and out of a ewe by a £25,000 Auldhouseburn. Brought out with assistance from Chris Toner, she already boasts a championship win at Antrim this year and reserve at Balmoral in 2018.

John Harkin and his son Patrick, Loughash, Co Tyrone, were again in the tickets too, winning the remaining top awards. Their male champion, a tup lamb by the £26,000 Auldhouseburn bought last year at Dalmally in partnership with Merkins, and Paul Grant, Newry, went on to land the reserve overall. He is also bred from a ewe by the £160,000 Dalchirla.

Standing next in line to him amongst the males, the runner up was the winner from the aged ram class, a two-shear ram bought last year at Lanark for £12,000 from his breeders, Alastair and David MacArthur, Nunnerie. This tough nut is by Wisecrack, a Nunnerie-bred son of a £36,000 Midlock out of a ewe by a £50,000 Dalwyne.

Taking the blue and white sash amongst the females for Loughash was a gimmer by the £45,000 Loughash lamb sold at Lanark in 2017, out of a ewe by a £60,000 Dalchirla.

LEADING awards

North-type (Judge: D Baillie, Calla, Carnwath). Aged ram – 1 and reserve male, B Grant, Coughfin, Killaloo; 2, G and J Conway, Meenagorp Road, Plumbridge; 3, AB Carson, Ballybogie Hill, Clough; 4, M and R Smyth, Cam Road, Coleraine; 5, K McAleer, Camlough Road, Pomeroy. Shearling ram – 1 and 3, B Curran, Coney Road, Culmore; 2, AB Carson; 4, S and C Harkin, Beech, Drumsurn; 5, M and R Smyth. Ram lamb – 1, male champion and reserve overall north-type champion, G and J Conway; 2, T and J Adams, Eglish Road, Rathkenny; 3, B Grant; 4, B Curran; K McAleer.

Ewe – 1, female champion and supreme north-type champion, B Grant; 2 and reserve female, G and J Conway; 3, S Adams; 4, T and J Adams; 5, B Grant. Gimmers – 1, G and J Conway; 2, B Grant; 3, T and J Adams; 4, B Curran; 5, M and R Smyth. Ewe lamb – 1 and 3, G and J Conway; 2 and 4, S Adams; 5, B Curran.

South-type (Judge: W Dunlop, Elmscleugh, Dunbar). Aged ram – 1 and reserve male champion and 5 J and P Harkin, Loughash Road, Strabane; 2, G Wallace, Shilnavogie Road, Broughshane; 3, J and P Murray, Drumnaquoile Road, Ballynahinch; 4, J Brennan, Ballagh Road, Newcastle. Shearling ram – E McKenna, Urbalshinney Road, Maghera; 2, J and P Harkin; 4, B Rodgers, Market Road, Castlewellan; 4, G Wallace; 5, S Adams, Rathkeel Road, Broughshane. Ram lamb – 1 and male champion and reserve overall and 4 – J and P Harkin; 2, O Brannigan, Glenbeg Lane, Galbally; 3, B Rodgers; 4, C Philips, Sixtowns Road, Draperstown. Ewe – 1, female champion and supreme overall south-type champion, and 2, G Wallace; 3, McLenaghan Family, Killyvally Road, Garvaghy; 4, O Brannigan; 5, S and J Fegan, Drumnaquoile Road, Castlewellan. Gimmer – 1 and reserve female champion, 2 and 3, J and P Harkin; 4, K O'Mullan, Bridge Road, Glenbuck; 5, D Lennox, Dirnan Road, Cookstown. Ewe lamb – 1 and 3, J and P Harkin; 2, J and P Murray; 4, O Brannigan; 5, S and J Fegan.