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Blood brothers get a boost from their bangers

TWO sets of butchering brothers are using the humble banger to boost a small town's reputation as a gourmet food destination.

Donegal town unofficially became the sausage capital of Ireland recently when Ernan and Diarmuid McGettigan and Edmund and Liam Walsh both received top awards at the Associated Craft Butchers' Sausage Competition of Ireland.

Between them the brothers sell more than 40 different exotically flavoured sausages.

Five-times Supreme Champion Ernan McGettigan believes the town, which already boasts an annual food festival and a growing number of artisan food producers, is poised to become the Mecca of gourmet sausages.

"I feel we have put Donegal on the map. There is no such thing as the humble sausage any more when you think that you can get anything from the breakfast sausage to a gourmet meal, and there is nothing more economical or nutritious in these recessionary times," he said.

Ernan, whose first supreme title was awarded for his hickory and maple sausage in 2001, is the only Irish butcher to win the title more than once.

Since then, he has been selling prize-winning sausages flavoured with chilli, chocolate and orange, curry, banana and mango and a nifty rhubarb and ginger variety, to mention just a few.

This year he won the double when he was awarded the national champion prize for his traditional butcher's sausage -- a popular choice for celebs Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick when they stop by on their way to their holiday home in the county.

He also scooped the coveted supreme award for his garlic and leek pork sausage.

Ernan, who also does a low-fat variety, pointed out that the sausage is the ideal recession food -- "tasty, nutritious and cheap".

One hundred metres away, Edmund and Liam Walsh who, like the McGettigans, have a lifetime of butchering experience between them, have been notching up successes with their flavoured sausages at regional level since 2002, and won their first National Championship in 2008.

Earlier this month, their venison and redcurrant sausage won gold at the national championships.

"We were delighted because the standard is unbelievably high. Between ourselves and the McGettigans, there is an enthusiasm and also a tradition which is very important," explained Liam.

He also believes Donegal's peripherality has contributed to the drive that both sets of butchers share.

Among his more unusual varieties is a beef sausage flavoured with orange, chocolate and Hennessy brandy.

Irish Independent