Despite Gabriel Byrne's public misgivings on Today FM last year, and Leo Vradaker's idiotic 'he appeals to women of a certain age' comeback, The Gathering has built up some impressive momentum.
Vradaker's comment leaves me wondering whether our Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport thinks that 'women of a certain age' are more or less likely to come to Ireland following his bizarre comment?
Contrary to Byrne's assertions, I don't see anything wrong with encouraging the diaspora to come back to the motherland and spend a few quid... sure, isn't that why we attract tourists here in the first place! We show them our beautiful island, give them a damn good time and ask them to pay for the privilege. That's how tourism works, and in a country where tourism is so important to our economic success - now that construction, retail and finance have slammed to a standstill - we should be doing all we can to promote ourselves.
|Castleisland's par three 9th hole (Castleisland Golf Reunion, 27th July)|
Not surprisingly, golf has an important role to play in all of this. At last count (Feb 21st), there were 134 golf related events listed (and growing steadily).
I've been flicking through them and they fall into a number of categories: those that would have happened anyway, those that are for good causes, those that are very specific (and sometimes by invitation only) and those where golf is only a part of the event.
- Those That Would Have Happened Anyway: these include the Challenges that I rate so highly: Causeway Coast Challenge, Atlantic Coast Challenge, Dunmore East Classic etc., and plenty more besides. There's an element of cheating here because they're not Gathering-specific, but they've proved very attractive to golfers from all over the world.
- Those That Are For Good Causes: Golf Links Classic, Dublin
- Those That Are Very Specific: Russian Golf Tournament, and Middle East Celts Golf Classic. The latter is aimed at the Dubai Irish Golf Society - who knew!
- Those Where Golf Is Only Part of the Event: Clarecastle Village
|Galway Bay's mighty 12th (Galway Bay Golf Resort Gathering 18 September)|
As one of our most famous rockstar sons once said on stage: "Is there anybody here with a bit of Irish in them? Is there any of the girls who’d like a bit more Irish in them?" Phil Lynott, you legend.
So come on, if there is any Irishness in your soul there's never been a better time to come to Ireland. Come and embrace a way of life, see the sights, drink, eat, catch up with family and friends, make new friends and celebrate every ounce of Irishness you possess.
Golfing by the NumbersThe consensus around the big golf clubs is that the Americans will be returning to Ireland's fairways in greater numbers than recent years. That's a fantastic vote of confidence in our tourism industry. Hopefully, some of those Americans (and all the other nationalities heading this way) will be targeting a 'Gathering', but even if they're not it'll be great to see all visiting golfers enjoying what is arguably the best golfing product in the world.
The Gathering hopes to draw an EXTRA 325,000 visitors (and revenues of €150 million) to our shores, from a disapora that numbers 70 million, for one big shindig... which leave one vital question:
Are you on Gabriel Byrne's side, or Leo Vradaker's... or are you simply a woman of a certain age!