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Tributes flow for Dan O'Connell

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The late Dan O'Connell (left), Knocknagree, after whom the Dan O'Connell Weekend is named pictured with Ballydesmond box player, Dan Herlihy, at the festival in October 2005. Credit: Photo by Patrick Casey

The late Dan O'Connell (left), Knocknagree, after whom the Dan O'Connell Weekend is named pictured with Ballydesmond box player, Dan Herlihy, at the festival in October 2005. Credit: Photo by Patrick Casey

The late Dan O'Connell (left), Knocknagree, after whom the Dan O'Connell Weekend is named pictured with Ballydesmond box player, Dan Herlihy, at the festival in October 2005. Credit: Photo by Patrick Casey

MUSICIANS arrived from as far away as Japan to tilt their ears at the talent in Sliabh Luachra, lap up the banter and soak up a story or two at "O'Connell's pub in Knocknagree".

On Sunday evening, 88year-old Dan O'Connell who had been instrumental in reviving the grá of traditional music and polka set dancing passed away. He had been ill for some time.

The story of "O'Connell's pub in Knocknagree," became synonymous with music and anyone who could rasp out a song or a dance was not only welcomed but encouraged. He is known to have thought many people their first dance and on Friday and Sunday nights, all roads throughout Duhallow led to Knocknagree, where punters were guaranteed to leave a few pounds lighter from pounding the floors to the music.

While he lavished music, in his youth he was a talented athletic and cyclist and he scooped a number of Cork and Munster championships.

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In 1957 he purchased a small pub in Knocknagree and the rest was history. For the next 40 years, it became home to musicians such as Johnny O'Leary and Denis 'The Weaver' Murphy. Set dancing sessions were legendary in the pub and there was quite often the frequent saying, "we'll have one more for the road," and for the die-hard dancers that meant a final hooley around the floor and not a libation from the top shelf.

While some publicans go out of their way to attract punters, not so at O'Connell's. Musicians not only in Duhallow, but throughout the country, simply went into autopilot and made their way to Knocknagree and set up their gear for the night of music which lay ahead. Music, dancing and the Sliabh Luachra culture was important for him. He once said: "As I see it, the people, the music and the dancing are the culture, and all three are crucial."

During the dancing sessions, he would encourage people out to the floor and for some it required a gentle shy coaxing - but for others they were like greyhounds out of the traps at Curraheen Park such was the speed to bag a place. So the dancing session proved to be a delightful mix which made for better.

Throughout the years, the pub was the hub where radio and television recordings as well as book and CD launches were held. In 2005, Mr O'Connell was presented the Friends of the Culture & Traditional of Sliabh Luachra Award at the Patrick O'Keeffe Traditional Music Festival in Castleisland.

The late Dan O'Connell is survived by his wife, Hannah Mai and children Mairéad, Lucy, Siobhán, Raymond, Aileen, Seamus and Noel.

While the pub is no longer in business, over the last few days for hundreds of people throughout Duhallow, there must have been a moment where a memory or two were cast through the doors of "O'Connell's in Knocknagree" and bade farewell to a man who basked himself in the culture of Sliabh Luachra.


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