THERE was some gabháil of oysters and craic washing along the streets of Ballylongford this weekend as the village celebrated 21 years of its Oyster Festival!
Chucking back shells all weekend, Ballylongfordians simply had a whale of a time. Tasty morsels of the deep were never far from the action, but it wasn't all food-focused with everything from family fun days to car-treasure hunts and a variety of other novelties complementing the main action.
The festival opened on Friday night with the return of local Oyster-swallowing champion PJ Kavanagh to his rightful pedestal. PJ wrote the book on oyster-swallowing, retaining the title for years and years until he was unexpectedly ousted by Dublin native Jerry Evans two years ago.
Mr Evans successfully defended his title last year, but 2013 was to be the year of PJ's comeback.
"It was great to see PJ claim back the title, swallowing an incredible 26 oysters in 30 seconds," organiser Maria Hanrahan O'Neill said. Women's winner Michelle Mulvihill gave him a run for his money though, managing to down an eye-watering 25 oysters in the same length of time.
Friday night was also notable for the crowning of the Festival Queen - Listowel girl Chloe Daly.
The emphasis was back on all things fishy on Saturday morning with a fishing demonstration for children at Saleen Pier. "They thoroughly enjoyed it. They were taught how to fish and even got to cook their catch on a barbecue at the pier afterwards." Maria said.
Noel Lynch's wonderfully cryptic clues kept the car treasure hunters scratching their heads throughout Saturday afternoon and helped worked up the requisite appetite for the annual seafood buffet, this year in the newly-renovated Parish Hall. There, 170 guests were treated to a smorgasbord of mouth-watering seafood treats all thanks to the culinary genius of sisters Noreen Kennelly and Josephine Deenihan who worked hard in the kitchen all night.
"They did an incredible job, the amount of food was unreal and it just tasted divine. Fantastic value for €35 a ticket!" Maria said.
Meanwhile, the local North Kerry Sea Fishing and Angling Club had a fantastic weekend in conjunction with the festival. They organised the main fishing competitions, won by James Allman from Listowel in the senior competition and Kilmorna man Terry McCaffrey in the under-25s. Tralee man Ian Rutland came second in the under-25s with 12-year-old Aidan Long coming third, to the delight of his 91-year-old great-grandmother who followed the action with a keen eye.