Ireland’s decisive victory to retain the Shooting Times Trophy followed their success in the 2022 event and was backed up by a clean sweep of wins in the 2023 Top Retriever Team and Top Spaniel Team categories.

The Home International gathers spaniel and retriever teams from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales at the International Gundog Arena for two days of action-packed competition, with the scores being announced on Sunday afternoon as The Game Fair drew to a close for another year.  

The Home International has been held every year since 1969 (other than 2020 due to the pandemic) and is a highly anticipated contest for gundog enthusiasts from Great Britain and Ireland. It sees the four nations compete against one another in a series of demanding tests designed to test each of the dog’s abilities. Each team works five spaniels and five retrievers during the event, with their points contributing to an overall final team score. The spaniels were judged by Jeff Rayner and Ivan Wilson, and the retrievers were judged by Judy Rainey and David Logan.

Ireland, led by Declan Boyle, came first in the team competition with an overall combined score of 982. England finished in second place with a combined score of 959. Scotland came third with 874 and Wales finshed in fourth position with 858.

Ireland also took the Top Retriever team title and the Dover Street Trophy thanks to a score of 519, 13 points ahead of second-placed England on 506. The team completed a clean sweep of the team titles by also winning the Top Spaniel team compeition, and the Wilson Challenge Shield, with a score of 463, 10 points ahead of second-placed England. 

Top Overall Dog and the Wilson Challenge Trophy went to Ireland’s Declan Boyle  and FTCh. Jake of Blackburn with 115 points. The partnership also took The Game Fair Trophy for Top Individual Retriever, The Corlett Trophy for Top Irish Retriever and The Joe McGrath Memorial Trophy for Top Irish Dog. 

Scotland’s Alan Clouston’s Miekleburn Dark Island was named Top Spaniel Dog with 101 points to take home the Gamekeeper & Countryside Trophy and also took the Neil Lamb Trophy for Top Hunting Spaniel with 51 points.

The Skinner’s Millenium Trophy for Top Marking Retriever went to Ireland’s John Dawson with Balleyvalley Riley with 39 points. The Drummond-May Trophy for Top Irish Spaniel went to Ireland’s Trevis Crothers with Rytex Rie on 100 points.

The chief steward for the spaniels was Mark Clifford, while the chief steward for the retrievers was Karen McCarthy.

Ireland captain Declan Boyle commented: “I am absolutely delighted to lead Ireland to win again this year. The team have worked so hard over the past few months and I honestly could not be prouder of them all. For Ireland to win at The GWCT Scottish Game Fair just a few weeks ago and then come to Ragley Hall and do the same just proves that the way we select the team is working and that we are bringing the best dogs/handlers from Ireland. The team spirit is at an all-time high and it feels an absolute privilege to captain the team. Huge thanks to all the organisers and the other teams for making this such a great competition to be a part of.”

Francesca Prentice, The Game Fair’s Gundog Chairman, added: “The Home International never disappoints - the skill of the dogs and handlers rightly draws a big crowd, and the format makes for an exciting climax to The Game Fair’s gundog competitions. Congratulations to Team Ireland for their win and to everybody who picked up individual awards. I’d like to thank everyone who’s hard work made this competition possible, from the judges, the arena stewards, their amazing teams of volunteers, the many helpers in the background to The Game Fair’s team organisers themselves, who are so very supportive of all the gundog events. Special mention must also be made to our competitions sponsors who enable these events to take place – huge thanks to Skinner’s, Dog & Field and Härkila. I’m looking forward to next year already.”