Northern Ireland

Balmoral Show: The battle to be tug-of-war champions

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Media captionLisnamurrican Young Farmers Club talk BBC News NI through their intense training session.

Padded jumpers, sturdy boots and long training sessions - things that might help in a bid to become a tug-of-war champion at the Balmoral Show.

But there is one more special ingredient that could make or break your chance of winning.

So what is it?

Resin is used by most, if not all, competitors in tug-of-war competitions - apparently it improves your grip.

And for the teams that make their own, the recipe is a closely-guarded secret.

Image caption James Bell holding a jar of resin he made ahead of the tug-of-war competition at Balmoral Show

James Bell makes the resin for Lisnamurrican Young Farmers' Club and is sworn to secrecy.

"It's mostly about grip," he explains.

"One of the older members of the club showed me how to make it. He said he would show me as long as I didn't tell anybody.

"I don't know many other clubs that make it themselves... but you just put it in your hands and it makes the rope stick to your hand."

What are the main rules?

  • Boots: Well, no studs for a start. Think sturdy ski boots and you're pretty much there.
  • Belts: Most competitors wear a weightlifting belt to support their back but a hook on the belt could see you swiftly kicked out of the competition (and if they're wearing those tug-of-war boots, it might leave a mark).
  • Rope: When you're on the rope you mustn't lie down, the only thing on the ground should be your feet.
  • Age: As this is a young farmers' event at Balmoral, competitors must be between 16 and 30-years-old.
Image caption Lisnamurrican Young Farmers train in the shadow of Slemish Mountain

Lisnamurrican Young Farmers' Club has been in training for the competition since January.

Its training ground is a field at the foot of Slemish Mountain - a picturesque scene with dry stone walls and newborn lambs with their mothers.

Training isn't taken lightly; for these competitors this is the tug-of-war equivalent to the World Cup.

"I live for tug-of-war," says David Johnston, who is competing in the novice category.

Image caption Lisnamurrican Young Farmer's women's team hoisting a bag of weights in the air while training for the Balmoral show

Although a cash prize and shield are up for grabs, it's all about the honour of winning.

"There's a lot of rivalry," says John Allen, who will be competing in Lisnamurrican's advanced team this year.

"It's basically great getting one over [on] your friends in other clubs," he laughs.

"We go to the same social events, so it's good to have the upper hand on people."

Not just for the men

Image caption John Allen, who will be competing in the advanced competition this year

Lisnamurrican is entering three teams into this year's event - two male teams and a women's team.

Claire Adams, a member of Lisnamurrican's women's team, is keen for more girls to take part.

"There's not as many girls involved, which makes it quite difficult for us to prepare for Balmoral," she says.

"We don't have anyone to pull against or practice with.

"It'd be such a good thing for more girls to get involved with, it's just really good to be part of a team."

Image caption Claire Adams is keen for more girls to take up the rope

So, are they feeling confident?

Claire is out for the shield.

"We made it to the semi-finals last year. I'd really like to do better this year," she says.

"I hope we can get to the final and hopefully win."

The Young Farmers' tug-of-war competition will take place at Balmoral on Thursday.

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