DRINAGH Co-Op’s trading manager Martin O’Mahony has this week retired after a career spanning 45 years.
The Aughadown man, from Lissaclarig to be precise, joined the Skeagh branch at the age of 19, having spent a year at agricultural college in Rockwell. Skeagh, at that time part of the Dairy Disposal group which shortly afterwards joined with Drinagh.
Martin still remembers his first day clearly, joining Dan McAaullife and JP Ryan: ‘It was spent delivering fertiliser around Caheragh with driver Connie Minihane.’
At the time, Drinagh had 28 branches, compared to 10 today. Martin moved to Kilcoe in 1975, where he worked until 1989. He also worked in Spain branch near Baltimore part time from 1981 to 1989.
After this, he took up a roving roll and worked in almost every branch Drinagh had until 1999 when he was appointed trading manager.
In this role, he oversaw the closure of many branches and the opening and improvement of other branches ‘that brought the company to where we are today with 10 stores and four pharmacies employing 125 people.’
No two days were the same, and it was that variety that he loved.
Broadly speaking, the position involved managing the staff, deciding what was stocked in each branch and responding to customer needs in any particular area. The other side of the role was overseeing new developments.
Naturally, he’s seen a lot of changes during his time with Drinagh, which has been trading since 1923.
The first big change Martin saw was the introduction of forklifts in the mid-’70s. Prior to that all farm inputs, such as cement, etc. were all loaded and unloaded manually.
Over the next period, the delivery of milk to the branch changed to collection from the farmyard. This saw the demise of the traditional branch and the upgrading of the stores to suit the modern era.
The other big change in conjunction with this was the introduction of computers for sales and recording, getting away from the old book system. ‘The introduction of a new software system in 2007 was a huge help in managing the stores,’ said Martin.
He says it’s their service that sets their shops apart from other hardware chains: ‘We mightn’t be the absolute cheapest in everything, but we give value for money and great service; our staff have great product knowledge and know their customers.’
Part of their success has been their ability to change over the years and adapt to the needs of the people of West Cork but Martin added that ‘ loyalty of our customer base and the people of West Cork is the reason we’re so successful.’
Future challenges include continuing to grow the business: ‘I’ve always said if you’re standing still, you’re actually going backwards. It’s about looking to other ventures and new products and staying competitive.’
He thanked the board of Drinagh, CEO Joe O’Sullivan and all his colleagues over the years. ‘By and large, they were very helpful and made my life easy,’ he said.
The position is in safe hands: taking over from him will be Skibbereen man Michael O’Brien, who has worked with Drinagh for around 30 years.
Mike will be ably assisted by Denis O’Driscoll moving into the roll of purchasing manager and Michael Galvin as head of agri.
Martin, a father of five, enjoys boating, fishing and gardening with lots on the horizon including the local wedding of his Melourne-based son, Diarmuid, next year. He is involved behind the scenes with daughter Michelle and her husband, Gavin Moore, in the very successful Monk’s Lane, Timoleague, which will keep him busy.
He is also dad to Jane, who works in AIB, Skibbereen; Doreen who works with Laya Health Care and Siobhan, a well-known make-up artist.
Married to Monica for the past 41 years, they actually met when she came to Aughadown as a butter maker. She now works with the hugely-successful Gubbeen Cheese.
Martin says he’s not quite ready to sail into the sunset just yet and is ‘considering other business options.’
Not keen to attract too much fuss, he’ll mark his departure from Drinagh by opening a bottle of 50-year-old whiskey he got on the millennium, and which at the time he said would be used for ‘either my wake or my retirement.’
‘Thankfully it looks like being the latter!’ he joked.
Sean Mahon, managing director of The Southern Star added: ‘Martin and The Southern Star have enjoyed a close working relationship over the years, so I and everyone here would like to wish him and Monica all the best for the future.’