Come all ye single ladies

There are 29 men for every woman west of the Shannon, so Deirdre Reynolds decided to head to ... Lisdoonvarna, of course!

Come all ye single ladies

LOOKING for a down-to-earth man with shed-loads of love and good frontage? Then get on yer Massey to the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival.

There’s just two weeks left to find the farmer of your dreams at Ireland’s longest-running singles event.

But, as we discovered after taking Christy Moore’s advice, there’s no shortage of bachelors out to sow their wild oats in Lisdoon. Over 41 per cent of the adult population here is now single, according to the latest CSO figures – with single men outnumbering single women at every age right up to 80.

If, like me, you’re wondering where all these eligible gents have been hiding, look no further.

“There’s a lot of men this year,” festival organiser Willie Daly promises me when we meet in the snug of the world-famous Matchmaker bar in Lisdoonvarna. “They’d be delighted with a young career woman — a woman like you would have your pick of the crop. There’s 29 men for every woman west of the Shannon,” he explains.

“Traditionally, the son inherited the land and the daughter headed off to New York, or wherever.

“At 38 or 39, some of these men may never have used any of their love before – so they have a lot of love to offer a woman.”

Certainly singer Sinead O’Connor was inundated with offers when she visited Lisdoonvarna in search of a man last year.

And up to 20,000 more are hoping to be struck by Cupid’s arrow at the six-week festival, which runs until Sunday 07 October.

“I’m always amazed at the amount of attractive women with good careers who tell me how difficult it is to meet someone,” says matchmaker Willie (70), who has been pairing off lonely hearts for almost fifty years.

“There are a lot of women in their thirties looking to meet a nice, respectable man.

“Between internet dating and speed-dating though, it can be very daunting to find a partner these days.

“Before the recession, it was quite common for women to come to me with a long list of things they were looking for in a man. Now they just want someone they can feel secure with.”

As we’re chatting, local farmer Willie – whose father and grandfather were also matchmakers — rests his arm on a battered old folder tied together with string.

Wedged with three generations of matchmaking wisdom, legend has it that if you touch the book, you’ll find love within six months.

Sports science graduate Rosina Moore reckons the superstition is worth a shot.

“I’ve been single for a few years,” says the 26-year-old from Monaghan, who travelled to Lisdoonvarna with her friend for the weekend. “But this is the first time I’ve come to the Matchmaking Festival.

“It’s definitely easier to meet people because everyone’s in the same position. I’m looking for a tall, dark-haired non-smoker with a good personality. It doesn’t matter what they do for a living.”

“Willie introduced me to a fella from Cork last night who was really nice. He said he might be out again tonight, so we’ll see what happens.”

Forty-something farmer Michael Dolan from Offaly has been coming to Lisdoonvarna for four years.

“I haven’t found anybody yet,” he says. “But if you’re not in, you can’t win! Looks are important, but it doesn’t tell the whole story – personality is more important.”

With nearly thirty men for every woman at the festival, it’s little wonder that some resort to dirty tricks to get ahead.

“Forget the form,” winks one festival-goer in his fifties, as I’m filling out the paperwork to find the ideal husband. “You’d suit me down to the ground!”

“That fella there’s into fellas,” nudges another, pointing to his ‘pal’ — before his own wing man starts slinging the mud by casting aspersions on the size of his, erm, wellies.

“People of all walks of life come to the festival for a few drinks and to have fun,” says dad-of-eight Willie. “The dancing starts at 11 in the morning and goes on until late at night.

“Deep down, though, I think everyone is hoping to meet someone to fall in love with.

“Despite their joking, most of the fellas who come to the festival are genuinely interested in meeting someone,” he adds. “They have honourable intentions.”

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival celebrates its 120th birthday this year. In an era of sexting, Facebook and booty calls, though, is there a future for old-fashioned matchmaking?

“What’s nice about the matchmaking festival is that it hasn’t changed,” argues Willie, whose daughters Gráinne and Marie have followed him into the business by setting up their own dating service called The Matchmaker’s Daughters. “There’s not many things you can say that about.

“More and more young people in their twenties are attending the festival and it’s become very popular with hen parties.”

“With so many different ways to meet someone today, I think people can get a little lost in choices — but a computer doesn’t have any emotions of feelings.

“When I introduce people at the festival, they go out to dance and are laughing and having fun — that’s difficult for a computer to beat.

“All my life, I’ve focused on physical attraction,” he adds. “You can see the people who would make a lovely match very quickly. Usually, they can’t take their eyes off each other. If two people are physically attracted to each other, they can achieve a lot.”

As for me, I should be searching for a “tall, slim, blond-haired man with grey/green eyes”, apparently.

Hmm, sounds familiar.

Ryan Gosling, if you’re reading this – call me.


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