Belfast Telegraph

It's One Girl and Her Dog as Shannon wins TV title

By Linda Stewart

It's called One Man and His Dog - but 13-year-old Shannon Conn from Magilligan has proved that sheep handling isn't just for boys.

The teenager and her dog teamed up with sheep farmer John Maginn to clinch the top prize in the sheepdog contest, which aired on BBC's Countryfile programme.

Shannon and her nine-year-old Border collie Bill have been crowned Irish junior champions. "I'm over the moon. It still hasn't sunk in," she said.

"The local support, and even the worldwide support, has been unbelievable. Everyone has been getting in touch and texting congratulations.

"When they called out Ireland had won my heart was beating so fast. I was hoping we had won. Competing alongside John Maginn was an experience in itself. It was all amazing.

"Bill was the main man. It was one of his best performances. He was working really well and listening so I was really happy."

Shannon says her dad gave Bill to her as a Christmas present and had him trained as well. "The dog is old enough now, so he knows what to do. Bill is just one of a kind and he just does everything," she said.

Shannon said she and Bill split the teamwork 50-50. She described the course they faced as part of One Man and His Dog.

"You had to bring the sheep down to your feet and turn the post where you stand - and take them through drive gates to the cross drive that is going to your left hand side and bring them back," she said. "They texted me on Facebook to tell me what the cross was. I do trials on Saturdays so the drives are about the same, but the Maltese Cross was a bit different for me.

"I've been at this three years now and this winter will be my fourth season starting, so I'm really excited. With me and Bill it's a 50-50 operation. What he does I try to help him and if he thinks I am doing the wrong thing he would do it."

Shannon is the third generation of sheepdog triallists in her family. Both her great uncles represented Ireland at the internationals and now her dad Loughlin represents Ireland at this year's international.

She came fourth in her first amateur trial at only 10 years of age with her first dog Dan, competing at nursery level.

"Dan's been getting a bit too strong for me of late, 'taking a haud' too often as some say, so he is back to Dad for the time being," she said.

And everyone back at home is very proud of how she's done.

Darren Mornin, vice-principal of Limavady High School, where Shannon studies, described her as a bubbly, friendly girl who is very popular.

"She has a positive outlook and is a polite and hard-working," he said.

"Everyone in the school community is delighted by Shannon's success."

Belfast Telegraph


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