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Gleneagle has landed Killarney's world famous Gleneagle Hotel ballroom set for grand re-opening

Heading up the major events is the Sunday World Stars in the Kingdom weekend of concerts this autumn

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Patrick and staff

Patrick and staff

Patrick and staff

It's been the Las Vegas of Ireland for entertainment through the decades.

Now Killarney's world famous Gleneagle Hotel ballroom shows are set for a comeback as the country emerges from the Covid-19 lockdown.

Heading up the major events is the Sunday World Stars in the Kingdom weekend of concerts this autumn.

Gleneagle supremo Patrick O'Donoghue says he's looking forward to hosting the big stars again.

"We're delighted to be welcoming Stars in the Kingdom in October and many of the artists on the bill, including Linda Martin, Red Hurley, Paddy Cole and Shaun O'Dowd, have performed here numerous times over the years," Patrick says.

"Hopefully by October we will be able to resume a reasonably regular entertainment programme. Stars in the Kingdom could be one of the first large entertainment weekends that we will do, depending on how things pan out over the summer.

"Obviously we will be strictly adhering to any restrictions or recommendations from a health and safety point of view to protect our customers and staff, as we have been doing since the start of this pandemic."

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Linda Martin joins the line-up

Linda Martin joins the line-up

Linda Martin joins the line-up

 

Looking back, Patrick says that the Gleneagle ballroom has been at the heart of the Irish entertainment business since the days of the showbands in the 1960s.

"All the big showbands from Brendan Bowyer and The Royal Showband, The Capitol and Joe Dolan and The Drifters played here in those early days.

"Then it moved on from the dancing to cabaret and Joe Dolan became synonymous with the Gleneagle. He was the biggest feature of that scene by far.

"Joe would have performed here thousands of times, and we are delighted that The Dolan Family continue to perform here.

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"The Gleneagle was a summer residency for Joe. There was one summer in the 1980s when he performed four nights a week in the Gleneagle across July and August.

"Families from all over Ireland and many from abroad remember going to Joe Dolan at the Gleneagle for their holidays. It was a real hub for the Irish community returning from England for their summer holidays, or for their Christmas break, as well as Irish people north and south across July and August.

"They came for the entertainment and stayed for the scenery or vice versa. They might have come to experience the National Park and the Ring of Kerry, and then they'd have the entertainment available to them at night.

"It's the combination of both that made Killarney and continues to make Killarney from the Gleneagle point of view. It's such an attractive destination all year round. We have shows and festivals going on right throughout the year in normal circumstances."

While Covid-19 has been particularly challenging, Patrick recalls that the hotel has had to weather several recessions, a petrol strike and a foot-and-mouth lockdown since the 1960s.

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Joe Dolan played thousands of gigs in the Gleneagle

Joe Dolan played thousands of gigs in the Gleneagle

Joe Dolan played thousands of gigs in the Gleneagle

 

"When my grandparents and my dad were running the business the first big 'hit' that I remember them talking about was the Troubles in the North when they broke out in 1971/72 and English people stopped travelling," he says.

"The English guest was a big part of the tourism into Killarney at that time and they stopped coming.

"Then there was a petrol shortage in the 1970s, a recession in the 1980s that would have impacted on people's spending power, the foot-and-mouth disease in 2001… and then the financial crash in 2008 and the recession that followed.

"The foot-and-mouth came in the winter time when we were depending on a lot of Irish people coming back at Christmas and spending their money," Patrick says.

"That was one of the things we always looked forward to. The summer season was very short - it was July and August - and you had a big gap then.

"What kept the business going was the returning emigrants at Christmas time, and that was one year they couldn't come because of the first foot-and-mouth, and that put serious pressure on all the ballrooms around the country."

However, nothing compares to the effect of Covid-19.

"It was a difficult time last March when we had to lay off staff, cancel all our gigs and defer all our shows," Patrick says.

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Red Hurley

Red Hurley

Red Hurley

 

"We did get some reprieve over the summer, but then there was a further close down again throughout the winter.

"It has made things very challenging on the business and on the people who work for us.

"We are conscious of the impact it is having on entertainers as well. We would probably be one of the biggest bookers of entertainers in the country across all genres.

"We do everything from the big rock 'n' roll gigs in the INEC to the folk and traditional music in our acoustic club, and then local musicians in our bars.

"By October our expectation is that things will have moved on substantially and because of the booking levels we're seeing already the sentiment among the public is that people will be a lot more confident about going to shows and going to entertainment events indoors. Given the vaccine rate and the way things are going in that direction, we are very hopeful that that will be the case."

  • The Stars in the Kingdom weekend on October 15 & 16 can be booked at: 0646671550.

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