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This is a barrel load of good news for the whole country

FOR the hard-hit Cork economy, it is the news that workers and business executives alike have been praying for.

Not since the Kinsale Gas Field was discovered in the early 1970s has Cork -- or Ireland -- been on the brink of a natural resources boom such as that now promised by the Barryroe Oil Field.

The news that 2,000 barrels of quality crude oil is now pouring daily from test wells couldn't have been better timed.

Cork has fared better than other parts of Ireland in the recession, in parts thanks to the strength of pharmaceutical and electronic industries with high-profile firms such as EMC, Apple, Pfizer, Schering-Plough, Eli Lilly and Novartis. But even some of these have been hit in the worst recession since the 1920s.

Famed Cork companies haven't been immune from the scale of the seismic economic shocks.

Beamish & Crawford brewery closed and its loss is reckoned by many to rank alongside the losses of Ford and Dunlop in the 1970s and 80s.

Vita Cortex shut its doors on December 16 last and, since then, the firm has become a byword for industrial unrest with a 10 week sit-in by workers over a redundancy dispute.

Job losses have even extended to 'blue chip' firms like Pfizer in Ringaskiddy. Even Cork's proud tourism industry has felt the pain -- and the numbers going through Cork Airport have almost halved since it promised to overtake Shannon Airport as Ireland's second busiest airport in 2007/2008.

Combined with falling consumer spending and spiralling hikes in the cost of living, an oil discovery offers not just the hope of cheaper fuel and greater tax yields but the hope that, finally, Ireland may be about to turn the economic corner.

In Cork, memories of the benefits of the Kinsale Gas Field still burn bright. The find supported thousands of jobs from the 1970s but also gave the county a sense of strategic importance. When the Kinsale Field finally began to fail and empty a decade ago, its loss was keenly felt.

Now, everyone is praying that Barryroe delivers on its early promise -- and helps kick-start an exploration drive off the south-west coast that will strategically benefit hard-hit Irish finances. Cork Business Association's James O'Sullivan said it was good news for both Cork and Ireland.

"It is clearly the kind of news that the entire country needs," he said.