Prize is pure genius for an American with blarney: Boston artist wins contest for a bar in Ireland. Alan Murdoch reports

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The Independent Online
A YOUNG artist from Boston, Massachusetts, beat 31,000 other American Guinness-drinkers last night to win an Irish pub.

Jay Mulligan, 27, proved his prowess at pint-pouring, darts and - most essential - blarney to become the new owner of Connie Doolan's bar on the waterfront at Cobh (pronounced Cove), a village on the outskirts of Cork.

The source of Mr Mulligan's good fortune was a promotional competition that Guinness claims has increased its sales in the United States by 12 per cent.

Win an Irish Pub in Ireland] shouted the company, and Irish-Americans responded to the challenge of writing an essay on the virtues of the black stuff by the barload. Ten finalists were flown across the Atlantic and last night Mr Mulligan, appropriately enough from the city where the hit TV series Cheers was set, emerged triumphant from a last test of publican's skills - pint-pouring and darts competitions - with a piece of stirring doggerel.

A panel of Guinness executives, the Irish bartender of the year and an American and a Cork publican named him the winner.

He found himself in possession of a bar overlooking a 10-mile panorama of passing ships, wooded islands and gaily-painted old seafront houses, sitting above the quays where many 19th-century ancestors of today's Irish-Americans made their final farewells to the land of their birth.

His prize is worth about pounds 100,000 and includes a sum for redecoration. Mr Mulligan said it was the greatest thing that had happened to him, and he would be leaving Boston for Cork, and bringing his mother with him. 'I think she will really love the view,' he said.

Keeping order in a Cobh seafront bar that attracts seamen, dockers and the occasional QE2-borne tourist calls for diplomatic skills, particularly when it comes to driving out the comfortable at closing time. Loud noises such as the banging of metal trays on counters were until recently used in one notorious dive in Dublin. Bellowing 'Hev yiz naow hoems to go to?' also helps.

But an even greater obstacle, particularly for an American 'blow-in', is the language barrier. Cork accents are intractable at the best of times. Irish Radio recently reported how government ministers and education authorities, anxious to revive the area's depressed economy, had decided to provide elocution lessons for Cork people so outside employers could understand them. This was, admittedly, broadcast on 1 April, but the logic was irrefutable.

The stature of Connie Doolan's new owner in the cut and thrust of the public bar will also be enhanced if he or she can stay awake during that perennial rainy-day Cork conversation: 'Who killed Michael Collins?'

Outbreaks of Cork nationalism are inevitable. Shouting 'Cut out that singing]' during a heartfelt late-night chorus of 'The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee' may be deeply regretted later.

(Photograph omitted)