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'Probably the most viewed Irish pub in the world': How O'Connor's in Salthill shot to unexpected stardom

It’s been called O’Connor’s Famous Pub for years – but now it has 375 million views on YouTube.

LAST YEAR, TOM O’Connor, owner of O’Connor’s in Salthill, Co Galway, was approached by people looking to film a promotional tourism video for Fáilte Ireland inside his pub.

He accepted the offer, but what he didn’t know was that his pub was about to be catapulted to worldwide fame. There was no tourism video. Instead, Ed Sheeran was coming to shoot the video for Galway Girl inside his pub.

The pub is arguably the most important character in the video, which sees Saoirse Ronan enjoying what can only be described as an almighty session. What was it about O’Connor’s that made it the perfect fit for the video?

“One of the key things with the pub is that for set design you don’t really have to do anything to the room,” says O’Connor. “It’s already predesigned with the backdrops and everything. It’s family run, too, so they probably knew we could keep a secret.”

One year ago... #galway #oconnors #ireland #salthill

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As of writing, the video has racked up close to 375 million views. It’s the kind of advertising money couldn’t buy.

“We’re probably the most viewed inside of an Irish pub worldwide,” quips O’Connor.

🍻🍻

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But while it might now be one of the most recognisable pubs in the world, the pub is just home for O’Connor.

His grandfather purchased the pub in 1942 and it has been in the family ever since with Tom and his brother Frank the third generation to run it.

“It’s a family run business,” says O’Connor. “Myself and my brother have worked here all our lives. My Dad and Mam beforehand. It’s not just a business, it’s part of our lives. We grew up above the pub.”

The pub itself is a traditional pub with the opening hours to match.

“We don’t do food. We’re an actual pub. We don’t open during the day. We open in the evening time and it’s been like that for thirty years.”

Once you do get inside, it’s home to several distinct areas including a maritime section and an old cottage section. “Depending on where you sit, it’s a very different pub,” says O’Connor.

One of the things that’s most striking about O’Connor’s is the number of antiques and trinkets hanging from the walls and ceilings. Think everything from ancient crockery to old tobacconist signs.

“Most of it would have been bought over the years,” says O’Connor. “Collected by my grandfather originally and my Dad would have added a lot of stuff to it. My brother and I only buy bits and pieces here and there. There’s not much room left to hang stuff from.”

O’Connor says they get a mixture of customers – locals, tourists, young, old. In fact, he says that the pub’s appeal is cross generational.

“You can come in with your Mam and Dad or your granny,” he says. “We have an age profile that ranges from 21 to 101. It’s unique in that way that you can have a family come in and sit comfortably together.”

Ed Sheeran was here! Not that I care... #Galwaygirl #galwayireland

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On the pub’s website, there’s a list of famous faces who have dropped in over the years ranging from Chris O’Dowd to President Michael D. Higgins.

When pressed for who the most standout visitor has been, O’Connor says Art Garfunkel, but won’t divulge any further details.

“There have been a few people, but I’m not going to namedrop,” he laughs.

Since the video for Galway Girl dropped, O’Connor says there has been a noticeable uptick in Ed Sheeran fans making the pilgrimage to the pub.

“We do have the fiddle from the video so people get their pictures taken with that,” he says. “We do get a lot of people taking pictures.”

It’s just another reason to visit O’Connor’s Famous Pub.

“We’re very proud of it,” says O’Connor. “It’s stood the test of time. Seventy-six years and it’s always been a busy pub.”

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Amy O'Connor

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