The GAA and the Fethard businessman who is taking over Hayes Hotel in Thurles have both expressed a wish for the association to have a permanent presence in the landmark property, to mark its historic sporting links.
Jack Halley from Fethard emerged victorious from last week’s Allsopps Space auction in Dublin after bids from several interested parties for the famous business.
Mr Halley has lived in England for over four years and and his work there in the hospitality industry included having an interest in a London pub.
Now, following his successful €650,000 bid for Hayes Hotel, he’s making a permanent return to his native county. “I love the GAA and Tipperary hurling and football and thought, what better way to support sport here in Ireland than to get Hayes Hotel and try and turn it around and bring something to Thurles and Tipperary,” he said.
Starting with the nightclub, the new owner plans to gradually refurbish the famous hotel but pointed out that, given the already large investment ploughed into the business just to buy it at auction, “it won’t happen overnight”.
However, he aims to retain the current workforce of 25-30 and, eventually, expand and take on new staff.
A priority will be making Hayes Hotel a byword for quality food and drink, he said, while also turning it into a popular meeting place for watching all sports, including Gaelic games and racing. “Horseracing was what I was doing in my early years,” the Fethard native said. “But the hurling and football have a great heritage at Hayes Hotel. I want to emphasise that and make it a cultural hub as well as a sports hub.”
He is hopeful the GAA will take a sporting interest in marking its historic ties to the Thurles landmark. There is already speculation that the association will help turn the hotel’s old billiard room, where Michael Cusack and Maurice Davin and their associates founded the GAA, into a heritage visitor spot.
““They have expressed interest to us… to make Hayes the focal point as the birthplace of the GAA. But we haven’t gone into fine detail,” he said.
County board chairman Seán Nugent said they were “very happy” the hotel was bought by someone local who is interested in maintaining its links to the GAA. “I’m confident the county board would be anxious to be involved and give him every support because of the historic links with the founding of the association,” he said.
The matter is likely to come before the board before any decision on a link-up is made, says Mr Nugent. “We’ll have to talk to the new owner first. I understand he’s very interested in a discussion with us.”