36 years in pub trade... we’ve a real grá for it!

The Barstool series: We catch up with the owner of Finn’s Tavern in Ballymacoda - who has been running the premises since 1986
36 years in pub trade... we’ve a real grá for it!

Ger Finn at Finn's Tavern in Ballymacoda, East Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

AFTER a bracing walk along the coastline of Knockadoon, it’s a good idea to stop off at Finn’s Tavern in Ballymacoda for a refreshing drink or a coffee.

Finn’s is a family run business in the village with a beautiful beer garden and spacious lounge areas for venues.

Bar manager Mike McCormick gives me the grand tour and introduces me to two well-known characters who frequent the pub, Barney and Martin, aka Ned. They are impressed with Mike.

“He’s a great barman,” they both agree.

Proprietor Ger Finn agrees too.

Finn’s is made up of a general bar, a lower lounge and an upper lounge. The snug off the bar is a great corner to meet up for a cosy chat.

“We have a coffee machine and a pizza oven in here,” says Mike, who is managing the bar for almost a year now.

“So anybody in the bar and lounge can order a pizza fresh to order. The pizzas are very popular.”

So are the barbecues in the lovely outside area leading out from the upper lounge. The borders of flowers are in full bloom and there is a roof covering some of the area in case of inclement weather.

The outside area was created in 2005, a year after the smoking ban came in, and it was developed over the years to cater for more people.

“The barbecues are up and running the first Sunday in July through to August,” says Mike.

“With music from 7pm to 9pm, the place is rocking every Sunday evening. We move the pool table aside for the live music in the lounge, but if the weather is good the live gigs happen outside.”

Mike likes working in Finn’s.

“I’m very comfortable here,” he says.

How long are the Finn family here?

“We bought the pub from the Cotter family in 1984,” says Ger.

“We opened in 1986 after taking off the thatched roof and replacing it. We carried out some other renovations.

er Finn and his daughters Kate (left) and Aoife at Finn's Tavern in Ballymacoda, East Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
er Finn and his daughters Kate (left) and Aoife at Finn's Tavern in Ballymacoda, East Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“Full renovations of the bar and lounge took place in 1996, we extended the lounge area and put down a floor using Liscannor stone,” adds Ger.

“The wooden beams on the ceiling came from the CBS school in Youghal. The whole interior was refurbished.

“The late John Cronin was our building contractor and he did a great job. John employed local craftsmen. He fitted the stove into the stone fireplace and stone surround in the upper lounge as well. It’s there about 10 years now.”

Ger is a long time doing business in Ballymacoda.

“I ran the bar and have been doing so since I was 21. Deirdre and I got married in 1994.”

They make a good team.

“Deirdre was working in the hospitality industry so she had loads of experience in the business,” says Ger.

“She has a grá for it. We’ll be trading 36 years this year. We are the only pub in the village now.”

The couple have four children, Aoife, Dermot, Kate and Gearóid.

“They used to help out in their student days,” says Ger.

“Now they are off doing their own thing.”

And 1996 was a bumper year for Finn’s and for the locality.

“It was the first year that Fr O’Neill’s Junior A won the East Cork hurling and football championships and the new lounge was there to accommodate the huge crowds that celebrated that occasion,” says Ger.

“I remember the Fr O’ Neill’s camogie club were going well at the time too. We have had some great celebrations over the years when Fr O’Neill’s were victorious. The whole locality gets involved. There is always a great atmosphere around when Fr O’Neill’s win.”

The beer garden has a great atmosphere.

“Before Covid hit, we were very busy with outdoor events during previous summers,” says Ger.

“We cater for parties and for after-wedding parties. Getting the Sunday barbecues going for this summer now is top priority.

“We hope to host a lot of outdoor events during the summer. We cater for all age groups. We have a pool table and darts and we show all Sky sports including racing and football. Our live Sunday evening sessions have been very successful over the years.”

What does Ger, who has been in the pub business for 36 years, like about it?

Ger Finn and his daughters Aoife (left) and Kate at Finn's Tavern in Ballymacoda, East Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Ger Finn and his daughters Aoife (left) and Kate at Finn's Tavern in Ballymacoda, East Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“It is very sociable,” he says. “Meeting the local people is great. Finn’s is the like hub of the community. It is a traditional pub. Everyone knows each other. And of course we always welcome the holiday-makers. It is great to see people enjoying themselves.”

There is a welcome on the mat at Finn’s for everybody.

“We welcome the people who visit the Dominican camp in Knockadoon who do religious work there,” says Ger.

“There is a good spin off from the students who run the school.”

Like every rural pub, Finns has its own characters.

“Our characters are great; they are all well-known in the village,” says Ger.

“And, like every country pub, they like to sit at the same spot in the bar or in the lounge,” adds Mike.

What was Covid like for Ger?

“I am lucky in that I have another enterprise,” he says.

“So I was occupied with my haulage business during Covid. I felt sorry for other publicans who had no other outlet during Covid and lockdown.”

Change was on the way all over villages and towns in Ireland as a result of the pandemic.

“There have been huge changes in the pub scene in the last 25 years or so,” says Ger.

“The regular characters who came to the pub every night for a chat or a game of cards in their local are no longer with us. The younger cohort are more event driven and need a reason to go to their local, like a celebration or a party for instance. And at Finn’s Tavern we can cater for all events both inside and out.”

The drink-driving laws made a difference.

“People tend not to stay as long as they once did,” says Ger. “And our taxi man retired.

“People like variety and, being the only pub, we try our best to attract them in.”

Ger Finn and his daughters Kate (left) and Aoife at Finn's Tavern in Ballymacoda, East Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Ger Finn and his daughters Kate (left) and Aoife at Finn's Tavern in Ballymacoda, East Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

There is a lot in the locality to attract people. People love a leisurely drive to walk the popular Knocadoon walking trail.

“Knockadoon has really come on the map with the beautiful scenic walks which have been well documented all over the coastline,” says Ger.

“The walks have put Ballymacoda on the map and a lot more people are passing through the village and calling in here to the bar, which is great.”

Apart from the beautiful Liscannor stone floor and the impressive wooden beams, there is lovely art on the wall and a photograph of the late Tom Finn.

“A travelling painter was having a few drinks in the bar,” explans Ger.

“And he actually painted some of the characters that were here drinking! The three pieces of artwork are his.”

Inside or outside - Finn’s has a lot to offer. Call in if you’re passing this summer.

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