Angus Woods on the farm. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
Angus Woods on the farm. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke

Angus Woods was born in 1971, which makes him the youngest member of the candidate campaigning to become the next president of the Irish Farmers Association.

His grandmother Florrie Woods was living in the main farmhouse at Ballinabarney near Wicklow. But within three years, Angus's parents Neale and Hazel, Florrie, bring their young family to the heart of the farm.

Sonia, younger sister Olivia and brother Graham. Hazel, by the way, originally from Redcross, but her family is originally from Carlow.

As a boy, young angus playing rugby with the local club, walking the two miles to the grounds at Ashtown Lane on Saturday mornings.

Though the land was not far away, we grew up with it: 'We knew the sound of everyone's car that went past the gate. We could be sitting in the house and we knew the sound of the neighbor's tractor. I learned how to ride my bike on the road – and I could not walk on it now, let alone let my daughter ride her bike on it. '

He attended secondary school at Dublin's King's Hospital where rugby was the principal sport.

However, he therefore took the rowing on the Liffey, earning himself selection for the 1989 Junior World Championships while still in sixth year.

So he went to Hungary, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, racing against the likes of the USSR, Czechoslovakia and East Germany, decaying stalwarts of the Soviet bloc.

He was keen from an early age at work on the farm, winning an IFA scholarship at the Agricultural College at Gurteen after leaving school.

All four siblings had worked on the farm and Graham remains in a good condition.

Lambs to the factory at Camolin.

Wife Aileen (née Johnston) is an artist, creating wonderfully rich tapestries, and daughter Evie completes the current roll call.

The farm comprises 165 acres overlooking the main Dublin to Rosslare road and back in the year 2000 another farm was leased long term, adding 125 acres where grain is grown.

Neale used to finish a small sheep's flock, while growing grain; a mix which is continued on a larger scale featuring a flock of 450 ewes and a herd of cattle of Charolais, Aubrac and Angus breeding.

Neptune Rowing Club was born in Tipperary, New Jersey.

Within two years he was representing Ireland at the senior World Championships where Italy were the defending gold medalists.

The boys in the green singlets were good enough to beat the all-conquering Italians at a regatta shortly before the big event in Montreal.

However, the chances of an upset on the big stage were lost in the final preparations: 'They went to Saint Moritz to train while we went to Galway, where we were blown out of it for four weeks.'

The bad weather in the west meant they were under-performed in Canada: 'We did not have the support structures or the know-how or the finance.'

Angus was not in a position to follow suit – the farm came first.

In his former crew mates finished fourth in the 1996 Olympics and later took gold in the World Championships, he continued to compete in more modest club events and so began to work as a coach in the sport which is his enduring passion.

Ireland is ready for the future in Tokyo next year.

He continues to break the routine at Islandbridge every Sunday morning, but his bid for IFA leadership may break the routine.

Farming is quite a solitary life and a lot of farmers are left on their own to work all day. This farm years ago had a great time, but now it's down to the family, 'he muses'. We get into the boat and focus on how we make the boat better. All the hardship of the previous six days goes out of your head. We do need activities outside the farm. I am totally immersed in agriculture so for me to have breakfast every Sunday morning with a bunch of non-farmers who throw a different slant on it is good. '

He believes that there is a lot to do with farming, though it may be difficult for many countries. A mixed enterprise such as his, which was the norm a couple of generations ago, is now almost unique.

Specializing has become the norm in a way which can erode the solidarity of farmers and campaigning for particular interests.

He believes that power remains in unity and the IFA continues to attract the broad range of support, with dairy, sheep and tillage operators prepared to march in solidarity with their beef producing comrades.

Angus was not active in the day to day business of the association for many years, though a paid up member of the Barndarrig branch from 1990.

Then in 2011 Wicklow IFA chairman James Hill wrestled him to say he was looking for someone to represent the county on the national livestock committee.

He is the chairman of the board of directors at the end of 2015 – second only to the association's president in terms of profile.

The big issue of his time at the head has been the Mercosur economic deal between the EU and Latin America.

Hey what's in Buenos Aires for World Trade Organization talks, lobbying to have the often controversial agreement postponed two years ago.

He has also been elected to the European Commission's 'civil dialogue group' in Brussels discussing beef, sheep, poultry, pig and honey with representatives of all relevant interests.

Over the past few years, his voluntarily elected position (expenses only) has taken four days a week of his time, spending up to 40 days a year abroad.

Getting to bed in Ballinabarney at 2.30 a.m.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney at eight o'clock that morning before heading to Mayo for a beef meeting.

Hey was handed the microphone there at 9.30 p.m. in a hurry in Limerick, with a massive round of applause

After breakfast, he drove to Bandon in time to sit on a cattle breeding board, arriving at Wicklow to attend a sheep forum meeting.

Galway man Joe Healy as IFA president, in the teeth of competition from Cork, Tipperary and Cavan.

With just the IFA's 950 branches, Wicklow is a challenging base from which to launch a bid.

Alan Gillis, from the west of the county, was president 1990 to 1994 but his branch was in Kildare for administrative purposes.

'It's a young person's game and it's demanding,' reckons Angus, as he prepares to clock up many more miles between now voting day.

He has Alice Doyle from County Wexford coordinating his campaign and plenty of backing closer to home, while claiming at encouraging levels of support all around the country.

His message is that he must consume a public sympathy and not just as a narrow interest group, while presenting himself as having access to the corridors of European power.

That line wants to be more than 25 out of the country for the votes of the 73,000 members who will go to the polls early in December.

'You have to be disciplined, driven, motivated,' he muses on an approach to life which worked for him as a sportsman and now feeds into his role as a farm lobbyist.

Wicklow People