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Young, old, brave and bold but no money at the fair

THE fairgreen at Spancilhill is thronged with horses and sellers -- but money is in short supply.

Surveying the crowds at the 300-year-old Co Clare horse fair is Willie Daly, who's had no offers all morning for his five-year-old pony, Jacko.

But the Co Clare man -- better known for his matchmaking skills at the Lisdoonvarna festival -- isn't letting it dampen his spirits. "This to me is like a magic day out, I live for this day," he says, surveying the sight around him.

"There is very little selling going on, but maybe after some drinking later on, the buyers might forget about the recession and start buying."

Willie says he would accept €220 for his pony. A father and his two sons approach and offer €150. But it's not enough and Willie's wait continues. But all is not lost -- he's having better luck on the matchmaking front.

"I met a couple of lovely girls on the way in," he says. "Sisters, and they asked me to look out for husbands for them and two or three different men have asked me about wives, so in about an hour I might get them together."

Higher up the hillside, Michael McMahon's thoughts are focused solely on selling his mare and foal.

It's now one o'clock and the Gort man has been standing in the Fairgreen for four hours with no realistic offer during that time. "It is gone to the dogs altogether," he sighs. "There is a big change: plenty of buyers, no money, gone down a lot.

"You have to be patient and hang on. Maybe there might be something stirring in the evening. I'm looking for €2,000 for the mare and foal. I was offered €500 and I told them to go away and have a drink and come back."

Nearby is a man who could put a smile on the faces of the gloomy sellers if he could be persuaded to part with some of his millions.

Five years ago, JJ McCabe, a 74-year-old bachelor farmer, scooped €18m in the biggest land deal around Ennis during the Celtic Tiger years when he sold 50 acres to a developer.

But JJ's not buying today. "I'm only here as a spectator," he says. "You need to be a bit younger than myself for the horses. You need to be committed. I want to lay back a little bit on it. I'm coming here since I was six or seven. I would be well known around the place and I'm here to meet a few old friends."

Irish Independent