Danny Boy heads for the City

He has done for Galway Bay and Danny Boy what Riverdance did for jigs and reels, or Val Doonican achieved with sweaters.

Now Daniel O'Donnell, the squeaky-clean and hugely successful Irish singer, has hit the right note in the City.

The easy-listening star is by far the biggest selling artist at Ritz, the music publishing group whose shares start trading this morning on the lightly-regulated Ofex market.

A placing of 1 million shares at 55p values the company at just over pounds 10m.

Michael Clerkin, the owner of Ritz who will retain a stake worth more than pounds 7.5m, plans to pump the new cash into promoting other acts, which include country singers Charlie Landsborough, Mary Duff and Dominic Kirwan.

But it is Mr O'Donnell who is the main attraction. Some pounds 200,000 is earmarked to double the spending on a pre-Christmas advertising blitz for his latest chart-topping album, "Songs Of Inspiration", and a live video.

Mr O'Donnell, who has monopolised the UK country music charts since the Eighties, has a fan club boasting 25,000 members and plays to sell-out crowds across Britain and Ireland. Devotion to Mr O'Donnell borders on the messianic.

Every year thousands flock to his home in the tiny Co Dongeal village of Kincasslagh, where Mr O'Donnell's mother greets well-wishers with cups of tea.

Recently a couple of fans left their home in Bristol and bought a caravan just to live near their idol.

They have seen him on stage 40 times and made 30 trips to Donegal.

Founded 15 years ago, Ritz's first big hit came in 1982 when Foster & Allen, an unknown duo, made the top 20 singles chart with A Bunch of Thyme.

Directors are forecasting profits of pounds 525,000 on sales of pounds 5.7m for the year to March 1997.

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