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*Willie Daly. Photograph: Eamon Ward

Lisdoonvarna’s world-famous matchmaking festival is swapping the Spa for sunny Spain.

Europe’s biggest singles event will be held in the small coastal town of Cabo Roig in Alicante over eight days next month.

Earlier this summer, the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival was cancelled for the second year in a row. Tens of thousands of visitors flock to North Clare in September and October each year for the six week festival which began over 160 years ago.

Organisers of the festival said the decision to cancel would lead to a €5m loss for the local economy.

Willie Daly who is the last of Ireland’s traditional matchmakers will be bringing his 150 year-old love ledger with him to arrange dates on Spanish soil. “Lisdoonvarna is heading to Spain for the first time. I’ve been invited over to Cabo Roig, along with a couple of my daughters, to bring some romance to the town. I don’t know quite what to expect, but it’ll be wonderful to bring Lisdoonvarna over there.

“I’d imagine the Spanish fellas, with their Latin blood, will be a bit more forward than the Irish lads. Irish lads tend to be shy, and only get going once they’ve a rake of pints inside them,” he said.

A father of eight, the 79 year old said the release of the Hallmark film ‘As Luck Would Have It’ which was loosely based on the Lisdoonvarna festival has led to an increase in inquiries. Easing of restrictions have led to some romance returning to North Clare, he added.

“There’s a lot more people looking for love out there because there wasn’t any opportunity for romance when the pandemic was at its worst. A lot of the bachelors around here are starting to get excited. But many of them are out of practice so I’ve been advising them to smarten themselves up, maybe iron their shirt and run an ‘auld comb through their hair before they come to the dances”.

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