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Matchmaker Willie Daly in Lisdoonvarna. Photograph by Arthur Ellis.

Lockdown dampens St Valentine’s Day Romance

LOOKING for love, without the pub has been described as “a threatening and scary prospect” by legendary Lisdoonvarna matchmaker Willie Daly. Ahead of a Valentine’s Day like no other, the love guru said Irish society remains without a key social and romantic outlet, as Level 5 restrictions mean pubs and restaurants must remain closed. “Irish men in particular are feeling alone and isolated,” he said. “They’re looking for love without the pub and while I’m not advocating abusing drink, Arthur Guinness was always a marvellous back-up and a source of energy for fellas who might have been on the sensitive and conservative side. They came into their own with a few social drinks in the pub and that’s not available now. The Irish man feels very naked at the moment. His mind, body and soul are in a different place. Love without the pub is a strange situation. I’ve seen it at the [matchmaking] festival. Fellas are shy at 7 o’clock in the evening, but by 10 or 11 o’clock, they couldn’t be more different and their confidence is up.”

The veteran matchmaker, who claims credit for more than 3,000 successful unions, said the pandemic has created widespread loneliness and isolation. “There is a big need for love right now,” Mr Daly said. “It’s very apparent and it’s created by loneliness. Of course, the pub isn’t the only social contact that’s gone right now. A lot of people aren’t working at the moment, but thankfully they’re getting some money in. Others are working from home. Last March, it seemed kind of exciting to be getting paid and being able to stay at home. That’s not so exciting right now.”

Over the course of the winter, Mr Daly has seen a rise in calls for his assistance in affairs of the heart. “Queries have increased over the last few months,” he said. “What we’re finding is that people who were introduced six months ago, when the restrictions were lifted, and who had moved on, are now looking to reconnect. They’ve had a lot of time to think and they are reconsidering people that they might have overlooked previously. We have been busy because people are looking for love and that’s nice to see.”

Mr Daly also noted a significant rise in queries from overseas and an interest in long-distance love. “A lot of calls are coming from overseas because people realise what Ireland has to offer,” he said. “Irish people are beautiful because they smile a lot. American women are very interested in Irish men because they realise what they have to offer. In normal times, Irish people are the best in the world when it comes to socialising and we’re all looking forward to getting out again, because there is a real need for companionship, now more than ever.”

Mr Daly also predicted a decline in the birth rate on foot of the pandemic. “I think there will be serious fall back in the size of families,” he said. “Planning wasn’t always a big thing for Irish men in the past, and people would be feeling quite romantic after a few drinks in the pub. It’s different lately. Things have become very competitive now from a female point of view. Women have to compete with all of the videos that are out there and that’s very hard on them. In the past, there wasn’t that kind of competition and you didn’t have the intrusive phones and gadgets that can cause problems for relationships and families.”

Last year, Covid-19 put paid to the legendary month-long matchmaking festival in Lisdoonvarna and there is cautious optimism that it might return in some form for 2021.


About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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