We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.


'People are fussier now': Willie Daly on how matchmaking has changed over 50 years

Oh, Lisdoonvarna, Lisdoon, Lisdoon, Lisdoon, Lisdoonvarna.

Willie Daly

WILLIE DALY HAS been matchmaking couples for more than 50 years, estimating that his work has resulted in about 3,000 marriages.

His “magic book” was handed down to him from his father, who in turn received it from his own father.

He’s kept busy all-year round but September is his time to shine. Today marks the start of the 160th annual Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival.

Daly has seen a lot of change over the last five decades, but one thing has been constant: how popular the festival is.

More than 60,000 people attended the festival in 2015 and organisers say they are expecting a similar number this year.

Speaking to, Daly said: “Going back 40 or 45 years ago, during the first 10 years over 90% of the people you’d introduce would get married.

“It’s a little different now, people are a little more fussier and women have got more independent …. they are more confident, more secure with decent jobs.”

Daly recalled how, decades ago, matches were often made out of necessity and “involved a very young woman with an older man” – something he wasn’t too comfortable with.

Now it’s the opposite, you see a lot of attractive older women getting younger men, especially around half one or two in the morning. After half one or so they all look like Pamela Anderson.

Daly said that while some people drink too much at the festival many do so out of shyness.

3/10/2015 Lesbian and Gay Matchmaking Festivals The Outing LGBT Music and Matchmaking Festival, Lisdoonvarna County Clare. Matchmaker Willie Daly and his famous book pictured Sissel Bouet, Denmark, Siobhan, O'Brien, Co. Clare and Deborah Hopkins, Germany Brian Farrell Brian Farrell

He encouraged women to give quieter men a shot, noting: “A Casanova-type might be good with the first 100 words but not much after that, they might be looking for someone new. A nice shy person can keep talking for the rest of their lives.”

Daly doesn’t feel too threatened by online dating. He acknowledged that it has become very popular, but said things like dancing and looking into each other’s eyes will always be “better than pressing buttons”.

He said that he can tell when an introduction goes well, noting: “You’d be saying, ‘Jesus there’s a few sparks and magic’ … Physical attraction is important.”

As for keeping a long-term relationship going, his advice is simple: “Don’t take too much for granted … and respect is awfully important.”

The famous book

When speaking about his matchmaking book, which is now about 160 years old, Daly notes: “If you touch it with both hands you’ll be in love and married within six months.

“If you touch one hand, you’ll just be in love. If you’re already married and you touch it twice you will re-create your honeymoon period … You can’t lose out.”

Daly said his children have helped him with the festival over the years and he hopes ones of them might take over the family business.

20150906_Matchmaking_Festival_Lisdoonvarna_0050 (2) Lara Poyatos, Paolo Zataran and Maria Mendoza enjoying the Matchmaking Festival in Lisdoonvarna. Eamon Ward Eamon Ward

So, has he found love himself?

“I often did find love, but not at moment. The festival always presents itself with lovely opportunites.”

Good for the local economy

Julie Carr from the Hydro Hotel in Lisdoonvarna told us the festival is worth between €2 to 3 million to the local economy.

“The population of Lisdoonvarna is just 800 people. We are expecting a huge crowd this weekend for the Derek Ryan and Nathan Carter country music weekend. This will be a great boost to the festival and the local economy.”

20150906_Matchmaking_Festival_Lisdoonvarna_0240 (2) Martin Moloney and Trisha Flaherty, Galway enjoying the Matchmaking Festival in Lisdoonvarna. Eamon Ward Eamon Ward

Marcus White, managing director of the White Hotel Group, said getting Carter to headline the opening weekend of the festival will be “a great boost for the town”.

“Nathan Carter is at the top of his game right now … As soon as we announced he was playing back in January, the phone has been hopping – I have never seen anything like it.”

We have a great tradition of country music here in Lisdoonvarna – it’s the music and the dancing which keeps people coming back to this festival year after year.

This year the event will run for over five weeks, from today until 9 October, with a hen and stag party weekend on the 9-11 September, three festival dance weekends on 17-19 September, 25-27 September and 1 -3 October, and The Outing LGBT weekend, now in its fourth year, will close the festival on the 7 -9 October. B-Witched are set to headline the latter, with Panti Bliss also making an appearance.

More information can be read here.

Read: The LGBT matchmaking festival kicks off today – and the world’s media will be here to cover it

Read: 12 best nuggets from the New York Times interview with the Lisdoonvarna matchmaker

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.