The contrast couldnot have been more pronounced: The azure seas glistening off West Waterford and the brown gunge lapping the East Cork coast.
Tourists getting a last gasp dip on a rare sunny day crossed the county bounds for Bunmahon, Clonea, and Ardmore yesterday, forsaking the normally packed Youghal and Garryvoe beaches.
As the crow flies, Youghal and Ardmore are a stone’s throw from each other, but tides and winds placed them a million miles apart in terms of E.coli levels.
Clonea looked pristine, as Alan Hannigan from Lucan, Co Dublin, pointed out as he and his children enjoyed paddling in the sunshine.
John O’Mahony, from Clarina, Co Limerick, was staying at the Quality Hotel in Youghal, but took his wife and two children to Ardmore for a dip. “I’m very disappointed. We’ve come to Youghal for the past three years and the hotel is right next to the beach. But I’m not letting my kids in the water there.”
Darragh Cotter, 25, from Carrigaline, was close by with family members. He believes Youghal “will lose out in the short to medium term” from the pollution.
Michael Gleeson, from Herbertstown, Co Limerick, was staying in Youghal but “migrated” to Ardmore with his brother John and their respective families.
Aidan Quirke, who owns the village’s Round Tower Hotel, felt sorry for Youghal businesses. “I don’t want to see anybody in trouble. Youghal needs any plus it can get because it’s lost all its factories.”
Alan McEnery, Youghal Quality Hotel general manager, admitted sending guests to Ardmore “as the nearest safe beach”.
The hotel is on the edge of Redbarn beach and its apartments can cater for 500 people.
“Normally we’d be bursting. But we’ve had a lot of cancellations which have cost us several thousand euro,” he said.
The hotel’s indoor swimming pool and the nearby municipal Aura centre have been busy as a result.
Kevin Carroll from Cashel, Co Tipperary, had just arrived at the hotel with his wife and children, aged 4 and 9. “You’d have to be concerned,” he said as a red flag flew behind him at the lifeguard hut.
Brian O’Connell, of Ladysbridge, and his two sons were walking their dog on the deserted strand. He looked out to sea and said: “There’s no way I’d take a chance swimming in it.”
At nearby Claycastle, Ann Hegarty, from Midleton, and her two sons had abandoned all hope of swimming in the sea and opted for an indoor pool.
Michael Seymour struck a slightly lonely figure as he walked his dog along the almost deserted Garryvoe strand. “You notice I’m not walking him on the wet sand. That E.coli would have been washed in there. I value my dog’s health, like my own.”
Sums it up, really.
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