In celebration of Valentine's Day, three matchmakers offer their tried and tested tips
Dating agency owners Feargal Harrington and Rena Maycock met and fell in love thanks to their very own matchmaker – Feargal's brother Eoin.
In 2010, Eoin was on a visit home from San Francisco when he persuaded a reluctant Feargal to join him and his friends in Dublin's Palace Bar.
"I didn't feel like it because I didn't know his friends all that well and he was just looking for a wingman," says Feargal. "But then, into the bar strolled Rena, all five foot 10 of her, dressed in black with long blonde hair. I was totally bowled over, but I never thought I had a chance."
However, Rena happened to be an old schoolfriend of Eoin's so Feargal's brother was only too happy to introduce the two.
Feargal and Rena ended up spending the whole night chatting. "I eventually plucked up the courage to ask for her phone number," recalls Feargal. He was still apprehensive the following morning, but Eoin insisted Feargal call Rena.
"He said we would be perfect for each other and that a strong intelligent woman like Rena was just what I needed.
"I didn't think I had a chance, but I eventually made the call and it went from there!"
Inspired by their own experience of being successfully matched, the couple set up Intro Matchmaking Agency in 2011.
"We saw how being introduced by someone who knew us really worked, and all around us we could see so many people looking for love and not finding it," says Feargal.
"We decided to try and be the wingmen for people seeking romance – a lot of people lose their wingmen in their 30s because the wingmen are off getting married and having babies!"
The couple, who got engaged last year, will marry in June.
Meanwhile, their agency, which is based in Dublin's Dawson Street but holds client meetings at venues in Cork, Dublin and Galway, has notched up many successful matches – one in four of their clients ends up in a long-term relationship and one in three of its referrals is now by word of mouth.
A successfully matched couple, says Feargal, will have reasonable expectations of potential partners and similar future life-goals, core values like religion and parenting and the same level of interest in health and fitness.
Yes, yes – but what ignites that crucial first spark?
"Of course there has to be chemistry and physical attraction," he says. "They need to really like each other."
And, if you're on an Intro first date, he adds, you don't have to worry about a thing.
"We co-ordinate the dates from start to finish – and we don't give out numbers, surnames or photographs."
INTRO : DAWSON STREET, DUBLIN 2; TEL: 01 677 7000, WWW.INTRO.IE
A Co Offaly farmer in his 30s, Jack* joined Intro in September 2012
"I was finding it very difficult to meet anyone. And then I saw an advertisement for Intro in the 'Farmer's Journal'.
"I met Rena for a face-to-face interview, which took around half an hour and focused on my characteristics and the kind of person I was looking for. Rena told me they'd be in touch once they found a potential match. I had a date within two weeks.
"Mary was my second date. We met in November 2012 and we hit it off straight away.
"We loved each other's company and even though at first glance we appear to be polar opposites, we have a lot of similar interests.
"I'm a farmer from the midlands and Mary has a high-flying job in the financial services sector in Dublin.
"Within a month of our first date, we were going out together. We got engaged last Christmas and we're planning to get married next year."
*NOT HIS REAL NAME
Your hopes and fears, your past relationships, attitudes, clothes and manners all go into the pot when love guru Anne-Marie Cussen sits down to chart your path to romance.
Her mission: to discover what makes you tick, what makes you nervous and what you're really looking for in a potential partner.
Anne-Marie uses this information to construct a sort of dating road map that includes tips on everything from dating etiquette to attitudes, style and physical fitness, along with advice on how to be more successful on the dating scene.
Clients will need to address dating weaknesses in their attitude, personal style, or even emotional well-being, she says.
They may need counselling on the art of flirtation or body language, or a tutorial in the dos and don'ts of dating.
"There can be a bit of behaviour modification, involved because this is about preparing people for going out and dating," she says.
WWW.POSSIBLEDATE.COM OR EMAIL HELLO@POSSIBLEDATE.COM
Willie Daly is a third-generation matchmaker from Co Clare
"I've been matchmaking at the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival for 40 years and I've been doing it on a private basis for nearly 50 years," says Willie Daly.
"My matchmaking is a bit different from my father or grandfather because, for me, love is very important.
"This is as a result of seeing matches being made by my father, where the man could be up to three times the age of the girl. I remember thinking it would have been so much nicer for her if the man was younger and better looking!
"In the old days, the parents often initiated discussions with the matchmaker – usually at weddings, funerals, horse fairs or cattle fairs. Today, however, many people contact me by phone or they write to me, explaining what they want and who they're looking for."
Willie rarely attends a consultation without his 160-year-old Lucky Book, the battered, matchmaking tome handed down by his father and grandfather.
"My matchmaking has always been quite basic – it stems from a person's need.
"All my life I've put people together who'd be emotionally and physically attractive to each other.
"I have a gut instinct about people. I enjoy the challenge of putting them together. It's important that people are attracted physically to each other. That attraction has to be there – there's a bit of magic involved!"
WILLIEDALY@YAHOO.IE OR PHONE 087 6712155
* Be proactive – if you want to find love, get out there and do something about it.
* Always look your best. Ditch the comfort-wear – there's always somebody looking.
* Always smile on your first date. Go dancing – the activity and the music can help lighten the mood in those awkward early moments.
* Never, ever lose hope.
If you dislike the heavy drinking scene try joining an organisation, like a drama club or Toastmasters, the educational organisation – both are great ways to meet new people.
* Never discuss past relationships on a date.
* Never leer at your date.
* Never drink more than two alcoholic drinks on a date.
* Always maintain eye contact.