Neckin' oysters like the new time in Ballylongford

Ballylongford's celebration of the bivalve brings them in from all over for fun, fun, fun

Dónal Nolan

There's apparently no better excuse for a weekend-long party than the aul' oyster, as Ballylongford's festive celebration of the bivalve delivered one of the best annual hooleys there yet.

Kerry Rose Sally Ann Leahy got the whole thing going on Friday as she officially opened proceedings in a village she knows only too well, thanks to her boyfriend Thomas Mulvihill, who hails from Bally.

"Normally she would have been watching events from down below the stage, but this year Sally Ann was on stage doing a brilliant job of opening the whole festival," organising committee member Maria Hanrahan O'Neill said.

"We all have a great feeling about her chances this year; she is just such a lovely person, and her first task after opening the festival on Friday was to crown the Oyster Pearl - which went to Eimear O'Shea, who read out a poem to perfection!"

After that it was, of course, the big competitive event of the weekend - the Oyster Swallowing Competition. And in a sign of the growing reach of the festival, it was a New York native who took the men's title - Jimmy Diedrick - with Tarbert native Michelle Mulvihill winning the women's.

"The crowd was unreal, with the village hopping long afterwards into the night in a fantastic start to proceedings," Maria said.

Saturday began on a very futuristic note with up to 40 youngsters taking part in a robotics workshop in the Parish Hall. The adults got things back on a traditional footing that afternoon as 14 cars hot-footed it around the parish in the car treasure hunt - all following Noel Lynch's superb and very cryptic clues to the prize cache.

However, in order to ensure there could be no accusations of any lack of parity among competitors, Noel's son, Eoghan, gave the prize - which he had legitimately won - to the joint seconds. 

The extraordinary culinary talents of local woman Noreen Kennelly came into their own as ever at the seafood buffet that night, amid 120 diners who left the hall thoroughly impressed with the fare.

Sunday then delivered more oyster fest favourites, with Listowel's Jade O'Mahony winning the 'barman's' race for Kennellys, receiving a trophy newly in memory of the late James McNamara.

Monday culminated in a great historic tour of Carrig Island, with Dr Declan Downey and Pádraig Ó Conchubhair, meanwhile, as the expert duo illuminated the region's past through the story of the rich heritage of the island.

"We all learned an incredible amount on the walk, with everyone back to the Parish Hall for refreshments afterwards before the final event of the festival, the Crossroads Dancing, got going in the Church grounds until the heavens opened. We moved everything into the Hall then, where the dancing continued in a great end to the Oyster Festival.

"We are deeply grateful to our many sponsors and everyone who helped out with the events over the weekend. It wouldn't have been possible without them," Maria added.