Cork city pub is like a home from home for lots of people

In the latest part of our series in Cork’s pubs, CHRIS DUNNE talks to Donnacha O’Leary, who owns Jim Cashman’s on Academy Street
Cork city pub is like a home from home for lots of people

Donncha O'Leary, owner, Jim Cashman's Bar, Academy Street, Cork. Pictures: Denis Minihane.

THE owner of Jim Cashman’s pub on Academy Street, Donnacha O’Leary, couldn’t wait to welcome his regulars when the pubs were re-opened fully in January and restrictions were lifted.

“I couldn’t wait to get the regulars back in,” says Donnacha, who features in The Bar Stool series.

“Lockdown was a very tough time; it seemed never-ending.

“It was the toughest time of my life. I’ve been married to the business for over 30 years, I found it hard to fill my time. I spent time cleaning and painting. I must have painted the same wall 20 times!”

“The hardest part of Covid was the 8pm closing,” says Donnacha.

Trade is always brisk at Cashmans’.

“We’d be just getting into our stride, the place would be packed at 7.30pm in the evening,” says Donnacha.

“A big football match might be on the TV and I’d have to ask people to leave. Yet, across the street people were shopping in Tesco and over in Penneys, while we were restricted. It was really great to get back to normal hours again.”

Donncha O'Leary, owner, Jim Cashman's Bar, Academy Street, Cork.
Donncha O'Leary, owner, Jim Cashman's Bar, Academy Street, Cork.

Donnacha had mixed feelings about being open again for business and resuming normal trading hours.

“I was a bit nervous, but I was happy,” adds Donnacha.

“I looked forward to doing business again the way I used to.”

Apart from the regulars that enjoy a drink in Donnacha’s bar, he has welcomed famous people such as Roy Keane, Denis Irwin, the Irish golfer Seamus Power, dancer Michael Flatley, and singer Shane MacGowan.

“They all enjoyed popping in here and they were very sociable. PJ Gallagher, the radio presenter and comedian, is a regular customer of ours when he’s in town,” says Donnacha. “He likes the friendly atmosphere in here.”

Donnacha, from Farranree, has been running Cashman’s bar for 30 years. He is married to Sally and the couple have two grown-up children, Chloe and Olan.

“I was always in the pub game,” Donnacha says.

“I love it and it was always a big part of my life.

“I started in Rearden’s working a summer job, it was always a busy spot.

“Then I went to The Anchor in Georges Quay as a full-time bar man. That was a real old local pub that is now a coffee shop. I served my time there.”

Donnach moved on to pastures new.

“I managed Slick’s in MacCurtain Street for three or four years. That was a sporty pub and it too is now a coffee shop. Neil Prendeville cut his teeth there as a DJ. A lot of customers were from the Northside who were hurling and football fans.”

The pub trade appealed to Donnacha.

“It is a great place to meet people, have conversations and form friendships.

“When I left Slick’s, the bar closed.”

A new opportunity arose for Donnacha.

“Liam McNeill ran a group of pubs all over Ireland and he asked me if I was interested in managing a pub and having 20% share of the business. So I took up the offer; that was in March, 1991. My wife and I lived overhead the pub for a few years. Academy Street was always a busy, lively street.”

Donnacha got on great with his neighbours too.

“I made great friends with the Examiner and Echo staff across the road,” says Donnacha.

“The staff were always great customers of mine. They socialised here and had parties. I knew the gang on the night shift and the editorial staff came in to the pub in the evenings. They were a great crew. We all became friends. Even though the Examiner and Echo are based in Blackpool now, the lads still call in from time to time.”

Donncha O'Leary, owner, Jim Cashman's Bar, sitting at the counter.
Donncha O'Leary, owner, Jim Cashman's Bar, sitting at the counter.

The business blossomed and Donnacha took over Cashman’s in 2001.

“The pub evolved and it always had a very loyal customer base,” says Donnacha.

He has a friendly concierge over-seeing proceedings.

“We have one guy, Pat Punch, nicknamed Dyker, who sits at the bar and he’s always in good form,” says Donnacha.

“Every day he is in the same spot and he meets and greets the customers. Dyker is one of many of our loyal customers.”

Donnacha is busy in the bar.

“It is great to see the Opera House up and running again. They have always been a great support to us,” says Donnacha. “People love coming in for a drink before a show, and after the show too. We are always extremely busy when there is a show on in the Opera House.

“We have no door-man, people just arrive in and relax. Cashman’s is the only ‘local’ pub in the city centre and it is like home-from-home for a lot of people.”

Cashman’s is a sporty pub.

“We’re big into the sports all right,” says Donnacha.

“People come in to watch the rugby and the golf. If there is a ball on TV, they’ll watch it! The horse-racing is popular too.

“The lounge upstairs can be busy with the over-flow of people and often there are private parties booking the lounge.”

Donnacha has four full-time staff and his son, Olan, often lends a hand behind the bar.

“He is studying sports science in UL. When he’s home for weekends he’s good to lend a hand.”

Donnacha is well-used to being behind the bar. It is familiar territory for him.

“I’m at it 40 years; it is my thing. Academy Street and Paul Street have changed a lot over the years. But not here. We’ve stayed the same.”

People come from near and far to visit Cork and to visit Cashman’s.

“People from up the country often visit Cork to do a bit of shopping,” says Donnacha. “The wives will go off shopping and the men will come in here for a few drinks. Business meetings often take place here and a drink would be had when the deal was done.”

Donncha O'Leary, owner, Jim Cashman's Bar, Academy Street, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Donncha O'Leary, owner, Jim Cashman's Bar, Academy Street, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Donnacha never changed the name of the pub. “People often think I am Jim Cashman the Cork hurler, and I play along!” says Donnacha laughing. “The bit of banter is good fun.”

He loves his job.

“I love being behind the bar,” Donnacha adds. “It is all about friendliness. The elderly clientele love the chat. Over the years, you get to know them. The pub business is a very socialable business.”

Cashman’s is a lively spot.

“We have a DJ Friday and Saturday nights who plays ’70s and ’80s music and we have a ballad session on Sunday evenings from 6pm to 8.30pm.”

Cashman’s is a great party venue.

“30 firemen are coming in tomorrow evening before they go for dinner,” says Donnacha. “There is always something happening here and always something happening in Cork. We are looking forward to a great summer!”

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