Texas girls in search of perfect match as love fest kicks off
TEN cheerleaders from Texas are due to arrive in Ireland in the next fortnight . . . and they're all looking to meet Irish men.
The high-kickin' gals are heading to Lisdoonvarna and have already enlisted the help of the country's most renowned matchmaker, Willie Daly.
"I think a few of their fathers have oil wells," said Willie yesterday as he kicked off a month of business at the annual Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival.
Between now and the first week of October, somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 visitors will descend on Lisdoon, all in search of a good old knees-up -- and whatever you're having yourself.
Billed as Europe's biggest singles festival, matchmaking remains at its core, but these days it's more about dancing, meeting old and new friends and cutting loose at the end of the summer's work.
And if you're unattached and feeling that time is marching on, you can take your chances by calling to Willie's office at the Matchmaker Bar or at one of his clinics in the Hydro Hotel.
He's been bringing couples together for more than 40 years and produces his grandfather's matchmaking book, dating back 130 years, as evidence of the countless successful matches.
For "a nominal fee" anyone can fill in a form listing basic details and interests and Willie does the rest.
"I prefer to introduce people, but I usually have a good idea of a person who might fit with another person. You know, there's a magical thing between American women and Irish men -- it just needs to be ignited," he concluded.
But even Willie has noticed the effects of the collapse of the economy on the serious business of finding a life partner.
"Ten or 15 years ago it was all about falling in love and finding a soulmate. But in the last 18 months or so, people are asking 'has he a house' or 'is he solvent?'. It's like it was back in the 1940s and the 1950s," he said.
His business has also moved with the times and daughter Claire is now on board, moving the matchmaking into world of cyberspace. She has just launched two new websites to cope with the demand for her and her dad's services.
"The website match- makersdaughter.com is along traditional lines, while williedaly.com is an internet dating site and there has been a great response so far," said Claire.
The other essential part of the matchmaking equation in Lisdoon is dancing. It seems that you can't have one without the other.
Dancing starts daily in mid-morning and continues into the early hours of the following day. A total of 17 venues across Lisdoon offer the widest possible variety to visitors.
One of the most popular is the Pavilion Theatre, otherwise known as the Old Town Hall, or the new community centre.
From 12-2pm daily, dancers of all ages will pay their €5 admission fee for live music and two hours of dancing of all kinds.
Yesterday the Shay O'Callaghan showband were strutting their stuff before an admittedly small attendance.
"Just wait till next weekend and the rest of the month -- we'll have 400 people here and they'll be out the door," said Sean Jordan, volunteer doorman and community helper.
Sean retired from his electrical contracting business a few years ago and helps out with Cathy O'Connell running the early afternoon dances. Unmarried, he smiles as he confesses to a few close calls.
"I escaped. But I had plenty of good nights here when I was younger. These walls could tell a few stories all right -- there have been any number of matches made at dances here," said Sean.
Many of the early arrivals at the Matchmaking Festival were yesterday studying the form at the opening session of the revived horseracing weekend in nearby Ballyreen, while Mr Lisdoonvarna and the Queen of the Burren will be chosen over the October bank holiday weekend.