‘I'm happy to be giving the building back to the people'

December 22nd, 2015 5:10 PM

By Southern Star Team

Eileen Connolly and her son Sam McNicholl inside the iconic venue in Leap, ready for this week's re-opening. (Photo: Emma Jervis Photography).

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‘It’s not about my family or me. Connolly’s is West Cork,’ Sam McNicholl tells Kieran O’Mahony

JINGLE bells won’t be the only sound coming from Leap this Christmas, as the village will once again rock to the musical sounds coming from the much loved venue, Connolly’s. 

It’s something the late Paddy McNicholl would be immensely proud of – his son Sam taking over the mantle, nearly nine years after the much-loved venue closed. 

It was definitely music to the ears of many fans of the venue when Sam and his mother Eileen Connolly were granted a dance licence at Skibbereen Court back in October. Since then they have been busy preparing the venue for the re-launch.

‘It’s great to be finally saying we are re-opening. I think Dad passing away in 2010 was a really motivating part to re-open it, as people started coming forward saying how much of an effect the place had on them,’ Sam told The Southern Star.

‘And there was a sense of finality about it, as a life had ended and someone had died,’ he said.

‘People were coming up to me to tell me that Connolly’s was the reason that they moved to West Cork, and that my parents inspired them that this is a place where people can fit in.’

Paddy and Eileen sold the bar licence back in 2006 on the night of Sam’s brother’s 21st, but it was a different time back then, and they felt that perhaps it was time to bow out.

‘My parents were also spending more time focussing on the family life and my mum got sick back then too. Also, there was a feeling that Ireland had changed and people had stopped going out. While I’m not speaking for my dad, I think maybe the spark may have gone from it, and I guess life just took over.’

While Sam spent several years travelling abroad, he was amazed when he would tell people about his life in Leap and the famous musicians and singers that he was accustomed to meeting when he was younger. He quickly realised that he would love to move back home and re-open the venue.

‘It’s not about my family or me. Connolly’s is West Cork and it’s a meeting place for all sorts of people and I’m happy to be giving the building back to the people. I never thought I’d be back but I couldn’t be happier.’ Sam and Eileen started work on restoring parts of the building to bring it up to fire safety standards ahead of their licence application.

‘We took out the old floor and salvaged the best pieces and we were also looking for a new bar counter, so we used Dad’s old full size snooker table that had been lying in the shed for the past 20 years. It’s sort of an homage to him, which is great.’

The venue hasn’t been sitting idly by, either, over the past nine years and there have been numerous charity events and gigs held there and that also spurred Sam on to get a licence when he saw that people really had a feel for the place.

Sam and Eileen are delighted to have the venue opened just in time for Christmas.

‘We will see how it goes, really. We have four gigs over the first weekend and four more over the Christmas period,’ Sam explained. 

‘I just want to start small and have local bands and bands from Cork city playing here, and then let it define its own course.’

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