But hard work and a passion for serving only the best and freshest local seafood has seen their business prosper over the years, gaining not just awards but also a steady local trade in addition to visitors during the summer season.
“It is all about seafood,” says EJ O’Neill. “It’s about serving the best and cooking it simply, and that hasn’t changed since my parents started all those years ago.”
O’Neill’s is one of 32 pubs across the island of Ireland to have secured coveted listings in the Michelin’s Eating Out In Pubs Guide for 2017.
For nine months of the year, from March to November, Michael and Bridie’s son, along with EJ’s wife, Viviana, run the pub which is located near the ferry terminal to Valentia Island.
“My parents are still heavily involved. They are the driving force behind the pub but we are all in it together,” says EJ, delighted that their efforts have been recognised for the eight year in a row.
“Winning the award again is wonderful. It is, of course, very prestigious but, more importantly, it is nice to be recognised and it helps to bring people visitors in, particularly during the summer."
But local trade is also hugely important: “We are very lucky with that. It is the lifeblood of the business, because, without local trade, we’d be goosed.”
Among the ‘locals’ he welcomes to the pub for a meal are the hundreds of Corkonians who arrive during the summer: “We regard them as locals, except of course during the Munster Final.”
Another pub to make the guide is Cronin’s in Crosshaven, Co Cork, and, just before 1pm yesterday, it had clocked up 1,523,000 happy diners and drinkers. By the time lunch was over, that had increased by a couple of dozen more.
Like O’Neill’s in Cahersiveen, Cronin’s is a traditional Irish pub that is being run by two generations of the same family.
Run by Sean, Thecla, Denis, and Joleen, the history of Cronin’s goes back to when Sean’s parents, Jo and Denny, bought the former Kennefick’s Hotel in 1970. Sean’s Dutch wife, Thecla, brought with her a love of cooking which helped make Cronin’s a popular lunchtime destination.
Their children, Joleen and Denis, continue that tradition and when Denis opened the Mad Fish Restaurant in 2009, it quickly became a sure thing to win numerous Irish food awards.
Thirty-two pubs across the island of Ireland have secured coveted listings in the premier food guide. Michelin’s Eating Out In Pubs recommends 25 establishments in the Republic and seven in the North.
With six listed, Co Down comes tops in quality informal dining — the Pheasant in Annahilt, the Poacher’s Pocket in Comber, the Parson’s Nose and Plough Inn, both in Hillsborough, Pier 36 in Donaghadee and Balloo House in Killinchy.
Co Cork comes next with five pubs in the guide — Mary Ann’s in Castletownshend, the Poacher’s Inn in Bandon, Deasy’s in Clonakilty, Cronin’s in Crosshaven, and Toddies at The Bulman in Kinsale.
The Eating Out In Pubs Guide editor, Rebecca Burr, said: “We are increasingly witnessing how pubs can provide a platform for young chefs to start their own businesses, and how inventive these chefs can be.”
The full list includes Billy Andy’s at Mounthill, near Larne, Co Antrim, while in Co Clare Morrissey’s in Doonbeg, Vaughan’s Anchor Inn in Liscannor, the Wild Honey Inn, Lisdoonvarna and Linnane’s Lobster Bar in New Quay are all listed.
In Dublin the Old Spot and Chop House in Ballsbridge makes the grade while in Galway Moran’s Oyster Cottage in Kilcolgan and O’Dowd’s in Roundstone have also made the cut.
- Billy Andy’s, at Mounthill, near Larne
- Pheasant (Annahilt)
- Poacher’s Pocket (Comber)
- Parson’s Nose and Plough Inn (both in Hillsborough)
- Pier 36 (Donaghadee)
- Balloo House (Killinchy)
- Morrissey’s (Doonbeg)
- Vaughan’s Anchor Inn (Liscannor)
- Wild Honey Inn (Lisdoonvarna)
- Linnane’s Lobster Bar (New Quay)
- Mary Ann’s (Castletownshend)
- Poacher’s Inn (Bandon)
- Deasy’s (Clonakilty)
- Cronin’s (Crosshaven)
- Toddies at The Bulman (Kinsale)
- Old Spot and Chop House (both in Ballsbridge)
- Moran’s Oyster Cottage (Kilcolgan)
- O’Dowd’s (Roundstone)
- O’Neill’s Seafood Bar (Caherciveen)
- Harte’s (Kildare Town)
- Ballymore Inn (Ballymore Eustace)
- Fallon’s (Kilcullen)
- Oarsman (Carrick-on-Shannon)
- Fitzpatrick’s (Jenkinstown)
- The Tavern (Murrisk)
- Sheebeen (Westport)
- Hargadon’s (Sligo Town)
- Larkins (Garrykennedy)
- Lobster Pot (Carne)
- Byrne & Woods’ (Roundwood)