New arrivals make waves but tradition lives on
Published 02/05/2011 | 05:00
TWO monsters of the sea glide effortlessly into an Irish port as a team of women rowers battle the waves in their flimsy currach.
Thousands of people gathered at separate events yesterday to marvel at two contrasting spectacles of size and power.
For the first time since the 1950s, two super-liners berthed together as thousands lined the quayside in Cobh, Co Cork, to savour their arrival.
In stark contrast, An Tostal, the country's oldest surviving traditional festival, drew thousands of visitors to Salthill in Co Galway yesterday for currach and hooker racing, horseshoe throwing, sandcastle building and tug-o-war competitions.
An Tostal was first held in 1953. It initially had a strong religious element and crowds of up to 80,000 used to pack the seaside resort for the opening parade and blessing.
As crews battled the waves in their currachs, two giant cruise ships, The Independence of the Seas and Celebrity Eclipse, glided into Cork harbour on successive days and heralded Ireland's biggest ever programme of super-liner visits.
Five of the biggest cruise liners afloat are to make history by visiting Irish waters in the space of a few weeks this year, delivering a multi-million euro tourism boost in the process.
The liners -- Queen Mary II, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, Celebrity Eclipse and Independence of the Seas -- will visit Irish waters from April 30 to September 14 next.
The value to the Irish economy of the cruise liner trade is now estimated at more than €40m.