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'Fans started knocking on the door': How the namesake pub of blues legend Rory Gallagher was reborn

Gallagher’s Gastro Pub is now a husband-and-wife operation with an impressive food offering.

Image: Gallaghers

GALLAGHER’S PUB ON MacCurtain Street, Cork is neighbours with a small landmark in Irish music history. It’s a couple of doors down from what used to be Crowley’s Music Centre, the shop that sold legendary blues musician Rory Gallagher his first guitar.

As a result, the community feels a strong connection to Gallagher and his music. Over the years, the pub took the Gallaghers name as tribute to the guitarist. But by 2013 Gallaghers had been closed for years. It was a spot begging for a new lease on life.

Around this time, Noreen Gannon and her husband Martin were looking for a new business opportunity. Noreen had been running her family’s jewellery shop for years, but the recession had made things increasingly difficult. She’d returned to college in order to retrain, but when Martin realised that Gallagher’s was available, the couple saw the chance to create something special.

It was something of a leap for Noreen and Martin. Though Martin came from a hotel background, it was another ballpark to open a pub. Thankfully they took to it like a duck to water.

“It was really what I wanted to do, in hindsight,” says Noreen. “Myself and Martin were always really good entertainers. We had a love of food and entertaining people.” When asked what it’s like running a pub with her husband, Noreen laughs. “We work well together… Most of the time!”

“I suppose really the operation side of it, the fussiness of it, is me,” she continues. “Let’s just say that I have expensive tastes. I was pushing for customers to have a really nice experience. Martin keeps the lid on the tin, keeping things under control.”

They’ve even brought their children into the fold. “My daughter is doing her masters in digital marketing and fashion design,” Noreen explains. “She keeps us current, so she helps us do the right things on Facebook and Twitter and not put up bad pictures. For instance, I’m not allowed to touch Instagram.

When renovations began, the locals were anxious to see that the pub’s connection to Rory Gallagher was still honoured. Noreen and Martin agreed.

“There was an old sign outside that someone had done, a drawing of him on plywood. When the builders were working on the renovation, the sign came down, and that’s when fans started knocking on the door, saying ‘Hopefully you’ll keep the name.’ At the time, we were thinking of other names but we saw that this is what people wanted.”

“We knew we had done the right thing when we’d see young musicians with guitars on their backs popping their head in to see the cold cast bronze figure that we’d commissioned Barry Ormond to do in honour of the famous man himself.”

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The pub has become something of a minor shrine to the blues guitarist. Fans from all over the world travel to the area and if Noreen has the time, she takes them down to Gallagher’s grave in St. Oliver’s cemetery. In the same vein, Gallaghers Pub books the finest blues, soul and jazz acts in the city. It’s become a reliable spot to see brilliant artists like Karen Underwood and Donna Dunne.

Gallagher’s true calling card however is its food, which brings gastro pub grub to a new level thanks to its dedicated chefs and kitchen staff. Noreen emphasizes the dining experience, seeing Gallagher’s as a place to share a meal with friends and family as you watch some of the best local musicians that Cork City has to offer.

It’s taken a couple of years for the pub to get off the ground, but now Noreen and Martin barely have time to catch a breath. Noreen attributes their success to the hard work and genuine love they have for what they do. “It’s taken a while but we’re getting there,” Noreen says. “There’s something to learn every day, no doubt about that. We’ll never grow old!”

More: ‘The annoying pimple on the music establishment’: A melting pot of tribes on Dublin’s Thomas Street>

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