Many people spend years planning a second honeymoon, but these newlyweds from Mallow, Co Cork, had just nine days in between their honeymoon in Gran Canaria and a luxury trip laid on by the National Lottery in San Francisco.
“It really is a once in a lifetime trip,” said Donal, a soldier based in Collins Barracks in Cork.
It was Donal’s uncle Eddie who gave them the breakaway as a wedding present when he was pulled out of the drum on the Winning Streak Game show earlier in the year. Eddie kept the €2,500 prize money, but passed the five-night stay onto his nephew.
“We were actually in the Tour America office looking to book a three-night stay in San Francisco with a couple of nights in Las Vegas and Mexico when we got the phone call from Eddie,” Donal said. “He said to me ‘look, there are two Eddie O’Connors in the area and if it’s me, the trip is yours’.”
While his wife Karen had to go back to work in between the two holidays, Donal has been on leave for the month.
While uncle Eddie only asked for T-shirt in return for his generous gift, the couple had plans to buy him something a little more special.
Karen only packed two pairs of jeans, a couple of T-shirts and a dress for the winners’ gala dinner at the San Francisco Yacht Club on Sunday night to make sure she could make the most of the many shops the city has on offer.
“The hotel is amazing. Real luxury and great views from our bedroom,” said Karen, who works as a trainee accountant.
Also in San Francisco courtesy of a generous uncle was Garda Sargent John O’Mahony who works in Castleisland Co Kerry, but is originally from Ballyduff in North Kerry. His uncle Patrick was the lucky winner but passed his trip onto his favourite nephew, John.
“It is beyond my dreams being here. What an amazing holiday, we will never forget it.”
John and his partner Bernadette Hanrahan, who owns a restaurant in Ballybunion called Hanrahan’s which is open 20 years this year, also got a chance to catch up with John’s son Kieran who is in San Fran on a J1 visa.
As for uncle Patrick, he’s getting aftershave, a deck of cards, and a big mug with his name on it with a chocolate from the local chocolate factory inside.
“He has it all worked out, he reckons I owe him about four years of turf cutting to say thanks for this trip. And you know what, it will be worth it,” he joked.
For Mary Glasheen from Tipperary Town, staying in the Fairmont Hotel was just a dream come true in itself. She was a huge fan of the 1980s TV series Hotel which was filmed here.
“I always wanted to stay here, just never thought I’d get here. It really is a dream come true. It’s just fantastic,” she said. “I keep expecting to see [actor] James Brolin coming down the corridor,” she laughed.
Mary and her daughter Louise are regular players of the Lottery but never thought they would be the ones to jet off to San Francisco, along with 43 other winners and their guests.
Celebrating her birthday on the trip, Louise was treating herself to a few new dresses but despite promising she would not be bringing any presents home, she couldn’t resist the Disney shop for her nieces and nephew.
Also enjoying the sights were mother and daughter Ann and Lisa Higgins from Blarney Street in Cork. Ann religiously watches Winning Streak and has been counting down the days to its return to the screen this Saturday night with Marty Whelan back at the helm. The top prize is a new car and she already has the letters collected to enter the draw. She hopes her luck will hold and that her name will be pulled out again next week.
“We were thrilled to win, you just never, ever think it would be you.”