The Castle Demesne, Malahide provided an ideal venue for the 71st All Ireland Pipe Band Championships with spacious grounds as well as the adjoining cricket ground where the cheers to falling wickets almost rivalled the applause for the outstanding musical performances.
The weather throughout Saturday was generally good although a few heavy rain showers punctuated the pleasant sunshine of the afternoon.
The main duel of the day was always going to be the clash of Grade 1 headliners Field Marshal Montgomery and local Dublin band St Laurence O’Toole riding high after lifting the European Championships at Forres in Scotland the previous week.
Richard Parkes’s FMM were up first in the March, Strathspey and Reel discipline but they did not find favour with the adjudicators who had Alen Tully’s SLOT in first place at the halfway mark.
The FMM are nothing but fighters who were never going to give up their All Ireland title easily and in the second discipline they produced a masterful Medley Selection during which you could have heard a pin drop such was the precision and clarity of their execution.
Despite a strong response from SLOT, the FMM just about got their noses in front in what was a very enjoyable encounter.
The PSNI band made their first ever appearance in a competition in the Republic and took the Grade 2 title on a day when the RSPBA NI Branch bands reigned supreme, lifting the top prizes in all six grades as well as the four drum major sections.
Colmcille continued their good form in Grade 3A as did the Matt Boyd Memorial in 3B while Co Armagh bands Battlehill and St Mary’s Derrytrasna won in 4A and 4B respectively.
In the drum majors contests, the extremely competitive Adult section provided yet another winner with Jason Price taking first place while Caithlin Graham broke the winning sequence of Emma Barr in the Juvenile section.
The other winners were Lucas Adamson [Junior] and Leanne Crooks [Novice].
At the conclusion of the event, tributes were paid to four deceased members of the Malahide Pipe Band who had done much to strengthen the piping and drumming sector with the area.
Specific mention was made of the late Tony Markey, who from 1998 to 2007 organised the successful Malahide Piping Festival which for that period provided the season opener, attracting all of the top bands in Ireland and occasionally from Scotland.
Kevin Rodgers, a piper in the St Laurence O’Toole band, played a lament in honour of the four: Tony Markey, Con O’Sullivan, Mick Byrne and Mick Cave.
After the prizegiving, a number of the bands – watched by thousands of onlookers – paraded through the village to bring a great day to an end.