Offering luxury on an intimate scale

GOING into a new niche business at a time of global and local economic downturn doesn’t faze Northern Ireland born businessman Des McGahan.

After all, he opened up his last major venture, sports promotions, in Hong Kong in the midst of street rioting after the June 1989 massacres at Tiananmen Square.

After an inauspicious start, the business was sold in the mid-1990s, netting him and his partners millions. He’s typically optimistic that his current pet project, luxury private residential accommodation pitched at the rich, famous and the corporate set, on the edge of Kinsale in Cork will equally take off.

The house, a 200-year-old country home and former convent, has thirteen bedrooms and a five-star hotel level of service but without a hotel’s impersonality.

It is on 30 acres of exceptionally private grounds, with river frontages, pond, a nine acre walled garden, and with control and security from the electronically controlled gates inwards.

While Ballinacurra House (check out brings custom-tailored service levels to new heights, it is being done on an intimate scale - in contrast to its owners’ previous ventures.

Des’s first major business, PRISM, specialised in running and hospitality at major sporting events such as the Hong Kong Sevens, the Johnnie Walker Golf Classic and Heineken Music Horizons. Names he handled included Tiger Woods and numbers at events ran to 40,000 spectators.

At one stage PRISM was the largest events and corporate hospitality company in Asia and was bought out by global events company Octagon in 1997.

Five years ago, at an unfeasibly young age, he retired to live in Kinsale with his wife Lisa, an Australian native.

Retirement bit the dust as boredom set in.

Here, they have started their niche assault on the hospitality business.

If one of their first ventures, a weekend party for over thirty people, many of them top corporate lawyers, with a combined personal wealth of about 300 million, is anything to go by, it is going to work at several levels.

“Kinsale is a world class destination, I don’t think people in the south realise just how special and impressive a place it is,” notes Des, who looks at things like the arrival of Jet Magic to Cork and a new 130 million airport terminal as harbingers of good times to come.

Lisa and Des’s venture dovetails neatly too with the take-off success of the Old Head golf course and the fact that Kinsale is still without a five-star hotel plays into their hands.

“Anyone doing business is used to hotels, and one is the same as another, they are boring. We weren’t interested in having just another day out. I’d come across Des in Asia before and was hugely impressed at seeing the professional level at which he had operated.

He and Lisa provided something exceptional, everything we had asked for done, we had an incredible few days and everyone there was blown away by it,” said Mr Connolly.

Sounds like a promising start, alright.

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