The big match | 

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival hit by hotel shortage due to Ukrainian refugee housing

But “It’s a small problem compared to the fate of the poor Ukrainian refugees", said one business owner
Willie Daly and his famous book of contacts

Willie Daly and his famous book of contacts© Sean Curtin/press 22

Willie Daly with hotelier Geraldine White at the Matchmaker Bar

Willie Daly with hotelier Geraldine White at the Matchmaker Bar

Willie Daly is set to welcome thousands of love-hungry singles to Lisdoonvarna for the first Matchmaking Festival since Covid

Willie Daly is set to welcome thousands of love-hungry singles to Lisdoonvarna for the first Matchmaking Festival since Covid

Matchmaker Willie Daly getting set up for another evening's matchmaking at the Matchmaker Bar

Matchmaker Willie Daly getting set up for another evening's matchmaking at the Matchmaker Bar© Photograph by Eamon Ward

Eddie RowleySunday World

Festival fans hoping to attend this year’s Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival are being told that there is only limited accommodation in the town.

The world-famous event, which is back in September after an enforced three-year break due to the pandemic, is set to attract thousands of revellers seeking love.

However, the White group of hotels, which include The Hydro and The Imperial, are now home to hundreds of Ukrainian refugees living in the town.

One local business owner yesterday told theSunday World: “The fact that all the big hotels here in Lisdoonvarna are no longer available means that the majority of the people coming for the festival will have to stay in the surrounding towns.

Willie Daly with hotelier Geraldine White at the Matchmaker Bar

Willie Daly with hotelier Geraldine White at the Matchmaker Bar

“We have very few rooms available as the rest of the hotels and B&Bs are just a drop in the ocean compared to the demand.

“But, having said that, it’s a small problem compared to the fate of the poor Ukrainian refugees who are being housed in the hotels.

“They’ve been through hell and we are proud that Lisdoonvarna has given them refuge and welcomed them with open arms.

“They have been a great boost to the town. It’s not their fault that they’re here and they are not a bother. The Matchmaking Festival is all about love – and the people of Lisdoonvarna are showing our Ukrainian friends the love.”

Heather Crowe, who runs The Ritz boutique hotel in Lisdoonvarna, said her phone has been hopping since this year’s Matchmaking Festival was announced.

Willie Daly is set to welcome thousands of love-hungry singles to Lisdoonvarna for the first Matchmaking Festival since Covid

Willie Daly is set to welcome thousands of love-hungry singles to Lisdoonvarna for the first Matchmaking Festival since Covid

“We are delighted to have the festival back and I think people who really want to come will find somewhere to stay,” she says.

“I do know that some of the hotels in the surrounding villages, such as The Falls in Lahinch, are offering a shuttle bus service.

“So they’ll be dropping people in and collecting them. It’ll be a bit different to previous years, but hopefully it’ll all work well.”

Matchmaker Willie Daly predicts that this year’s festival will be one of the best in its long history.

“There is going to be a very, very big atmosphere in terms of fun. People are love-starved – they want to get out, and the men want to hold a woman in their arms,” he says.

“They want to dance and they want to laugh and have fun. That had been taken away from them in recent years.”

Willie said revellers will find accommodation in all the neighbouring towns and villages, as well as in Lisdoonvarna itself.

“There is plenty of accommodation all over,” he pointed out.

“People have always stayed in Doolin, Ennistymon and Lahinch when they came to the festival through the years.

“This is definitely going to be a very big year for the festival. Everyone is talking about it and people that live for it can’t wait for the fun to start.

“It doesn’t matter what age you are when you come to Lisdoonvarna looking for love – the years don’t seem to matter.

You’ll find people from 20 to 80 out dancing on the same dancefloor. I think that’s what makes Lisdoonvarna unique.”

Willie revealed that many Americans have booked to attend this year’s festival in the hope of finding love in Lisdoon – and they include a famous actress.

“This woman would have been married a number of times, but she’s still looking for love,” he says.

“She has contacted me and obviously she wants confidentiality, but the minute people see her they will recognise her.”

He says a lot of rich American women fly over for the Matchmaking Festival because they love meeting Irish men.

“About four years ago two women that had their own oil well came over.” And did they strike oil in Lisdoon? “Oh they did!” he laughs.

Willie believes he has been responsible for over 3,000 marriages.

Matchmaker Willie Daly getting set up for another evening's matchmaking at the Matchmaker Bar

Matchmaker Willie Daly getting set up for another evening's matchmaking at the Matchmaker Bar© Photograph by Eamon Ward

“I do get great satisfaction out of it when a relationship works out,” he says.

“Sometimes I meet people and they tell me stories. One fella said ‘you fixed me father up in 1975!’

“I was at a horse fair recently and a man was walking up through the town with young children in a stroller, and a beautiful young woman by his side.

“He said, ‘Hi, Willie Daly, how are you getting on?’ Look at the trouble you got me into!’ He was laughing. He is now the father of triplets. I said, ‘That’s good trouble you got yourself into. That’s a lot better than winning the Lotto.’ It’s seldom you see three kids as a nice outcome from an introduction.

“You can go to a lot of venues during the Matchmaking Festival and have great fun, and there aren’t many festivals where you can walk up to a woman and say, ‘Will you marry me?’ It’s a matchmaking festival, so it’s acceptable that that question can be asked.”

Last year Willie brought the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival experience to Cabo Roig, Costa Blanca, and it proved to be a huge success in the popular Spanish holiday destination.

“I’ll be back there again this October,” Willie adds. “Love in the sun, you can’t beat it.”


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