Joe found international fame as one of three men captured on video byphotographer Dan Linehan as they celebrated the reopening of their local pub the Top of Coom, between Kilgarvan and Cúil Aodha, following its destruction in a 2012 fire.
Nearly 700,000 people have watched the YouTube video of Joe in the bar feeding a lamb from a bottle as he, Dan Kelleher, and Johnny McCarthy raised a glass to the end of a two-year drought without a pub in the mountainous area on the Cork-Kerry border.
The video, which had viewers around the world trying to decipher the trio’s dialect, also caught the eye of superstar Ed Sheeran, who described it as “amazing” during an interview with Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ’s Late Late Show.
An invitation was duly issued by owners Tim and Eileen Creedon for Sheeran to visit the Top of Coom.
And if the singer-songwriter should decide to drop in for a quiet pint when he’s in Cork for his sell-out Páirc Uí Chaoimh gigs in May, Joe hopes to be there to greet him.
“We’re expecting Ed Sheeran shortly,” confirmed Joe.
“He didn’t make contact, but we sent letters to him all right. We’re living in hope anyhow.”
Sheeran’s busy schedule may account for him omitting to send Joe a card for his 80th birthday.
“He might yet. It might be in the post,” said Joe.
“I would love to meet him. I like his singing.
“He’s a nice fellow anyhow. I’d say he’d enjoy the Top of Coom.”
Sheeran might need to modify his multi-million-selling hit repertoire for a visit to ‘the Top’ though, Joe cautions
“Would we have a sing-song? We would of course.
“It’s the sean-nós singing that’s around here mostly, or we could sing ‘Kerry Long Ago’.”
Joe will not be lacking in musical entertainment as he awaits Sheeran’s arrival, with plenty of musicians, singers, and dancers among his own family of two sons, three daughters, 12 grandchildren, and one great-grandson.
Several members of his family performed music, song, and dance at his birthday party in the Abbey Hotel, Baile Mhúirne, where Joe himself took to the floor to dance a jig.
They were joined on the night by neighbours, friends, members of Cór Chúil Aodha, Cór Ban Chúil Aodha, and relatives from America, Ireland, Scotland, and England.
There too were several of Joe’s childhood friends who attended Scoil Chúil Aodha with him seven decades ago.
One of a family of 10, Joe remembers well enjoying the company of those friends on his daily path to school.
“Cúil Aodha school was four miles away from us. We used to have to cross the mountain. Cúil Aodha’s on the other side of the mountain from us in Doire ’n Chuilinn,” he said.
“There were no cars that time. We walked. There was a big gang of us together.”
Times have changed though, and he added: “The path is still there today, but there’s nobody walking there now because there’s buses and cars instead.”
The friendships endure, however, and what Joe describes as his “intergenerational” birthday party also included guests who had been taught by his late wife Joan, a teacher and later principal at the now-closed Scoil Barr d’Inse, near Cúil Aodha. “A lot of the kids that were in Barr d’Inse, we invited them to the party. It was a reunion more than anything,” said Joe, “Some of the kids are 50 and 60 now though,” he laughed.
It was his marriage to Joan, daughter of ‘An Poc ar Buile’ composer Dónal Ó Mulláin, that brought Joe home from a stint working in England. A poet herself, Joan composed among other works the prayer ‘Gobnait Ársa’, set to music by Peadar Ó Riada and sung regularly in Cúil Aodha church.
The couple lived on the family farm, where Joe still helps out with the keeping of around 300 sheep, but always ensures there’s time for a song or a dance.
“I was dancing jigs at the party,” he said “and I’m going to the Top of Coom now in a fortnight’s time, dancing a jig with the Luceys Screathan, and they’re recording it for the television, for TG4.”