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Matchmaker Willie Daly in Lisdoonvarna. Photograph by Arthur Ellis.

Looking for Lisdoon Love

Forget about Tinder, Plenty of Fish and Grinder, Clare’s resident matchmaker says when it comes to dating, nothing beats the real thing.

As preparations get underway for the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, Willie Daly says, “I know a lot of people have gone computerised on things like Plenty of Fish but there’s nothing like the real thing. When these guys are out dancing and they have an arm around a woman and feel the lovely softness of a woman and hold her hand, there’s a saying that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. It is very hard to beat the real thing.”

The festival kicks off a little later than usual on September 3 but with it running until October 9, there will be plenty of opportunities for those looking for love.

The festival is attracting a lot attention from the US and the matchmaker says men and women are flocking to Lisdoonvarna to find an Irish love interest. “There are a lot of American women coming over. It’s like the Irish men are an endangered species, they are so sought after. I think Irish men are seen as very whole, there is still a lot of good nature in Irish people and that is less common than it was. The other thing that is very sought after is their attitude; they know how to party, they want to dance and they want to sing.”

This year, Willie says he has had a very unusual request from an elderly American man, who is looking for a young Irish woman.

“He wants to get married. He has found out that he was originally from Mayo; he spent a year in Mayo and emigrated. Now he has quite an established business. He’s in his 80s and he is bringing two friends with him of a similar age. He is very happy about it. He started off not being very fussy but he tells me he wants an Irish woman, he wants a nice face, a happy disposition and there is a substantial amount of gain for the girl. It’s like a little deal; sometimes that can be off-putting but I know exactly the woman that would suit him and I have a few people that I will introduce him to,” he said.

Willie explained it was because of this man’s attitude that his two friends decided to come along at the last minute.

“He said, ‘most of my friends are retired, they talk about what kind of a home they want to go into or what kind of a coffin or a grave they want to go into and I just want to get married to a beautiful girl’. He wants very little in return physically but he does want love and he is happy for the woman to spend a lot of time in Ireland,” he said.

Willie added that there is plenty of interest from American women too. “Some of them would be married before. They are really looking for love and they want a man to love them and to respect them. They do wish that they won’t be afraid to tell them that they love them,” he said, because “love is what the festival is really all about”.

With music playing from 12noon well into the night during the festival, he says it gives people lots of opportunities to find somebody and that marvellous credit is due to those who keep the music going and continue to keep the matchmaking tradition alive.

This year Willie will be inviting people to check out his latest venture – a matchmaking museum – which chronicles the matchmaking tradition, along with old farm machinery that he has also collected.

By Carol Byrne

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