TULLAMORE is a virtual certainty to host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann for a third consecutive year with Director General of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, Labhras O'Mhurchu underlining his confidence by already booking his accom-modation for 2009 in Offaly's capital town.
Still on a high following such a successful hosting of the event, Chairperson of Fleadh Cheoil na hireann 2008, Attracta Brady said the only other time that a town hosted the national event three years in-a-row was Clonmel in 1992/'93/'94.
Tullamore now looks to be odds on to host the event again, with the decision set to be rubber-stamped in September.
Already, indications from Garda and others who would greatly influence the decision look to be positive and it would be a major shock if Offaly's capital doesn't host the event again next year.
An estimated 250,000 people attended Fleadh Cheoil na hireann in Tullamore this year - the biggest of the previous 57 events held throughout the country.
As Ms Brady pointed out, "Tullamore has more trains than you could shake a stick at, has motorways nearby and its central location is also well-served by bus transport.
"We had a fantastic event and the Garda and Ard Comhairle of Comhaltas reckon it was the largest Fleadh Cheoil na hireann ever. Listowel was regarded as the natural home of the event but it is all about Tullamore now," Ms Brady enthused.
A number of minor changes from the previous year's event also ensured that the 2008 Fleadh was even more successful.
"We sat down a week or two after the 2007 event, debriefed and put intowriting what was good and what could be improved. We took it on board very openly. We looked where we could change this and improve this," she said.
"We had a huge advantage this year because we had the experience of last year. But last year we only had the precedent of the Fleadh in Letterkenny (in 2006]. The crowds we had last year were almost double what was in Letterkenny with 230,000 people.
"It is reckoned we had 250,000 people this time. That's a lot of people and a lot of revenue for businesses. We get huge support from the vintners. They had to have their own preparations in place. They make their money on it, but they are in business at the end of the day. All the publicans have been nothing but good to us. They also provided the musicians with sandwiches, cocktail sausages and chicken wings.
"The hotels, the Bridge House, Tullamore Court Hotel and Days Hotel were absolutely amazing. Anything we needed - they were at the end of the phone. They gave us huge sponsorship as well. When you have the support of major businesses like that then you are on to a winner," she said.
One of the biggest successes of the event was both the quality and quantity of musicians in the town. It is estimated that between 10 -12,000 musicians were in Tullamore for the 2008 fleadh. Not only was Tullamore swamped with musicians, but some even travelled to surrounding towns such as Clara to perform over the weekend, such was the abundance of accomplished musicians.
"We had so many musicians, singers and dancers around. People were absolutely gobsmacked and couldn't believe that the young people could play so well," Ms Brady said.
Despite the larger crowds than last year, arrests were actually half of last year's, per day. Sergeant Kieran Keyes said the number of arrests were on average just ten per day, down from last year's figure of twenty. There were no reports of assaults throughout the festival, with the arrests mainly for public order and intoxication.
"Everything went off excellently. We were very much happy with everything. The traffic plan worked very well and there was no congestion," he said.
He said Garda adopted a similar common sense approach which worked so well last year. He said they had a pro-active attitude, combined with a "certain tolerance level" to ensure that everything ran off smoothly.
A new departure this year was the presence of Garda Mounted Unit, which usually operates on weekends in Temple Bar and at major concerts and sporting occasions.
Commenting on speculation that the event will return to Tullamore next year, Sgt Keyes said, "We would have no problem with it returning to Tullamore. We have our Garda operation fine-tuned at this stage. There were no problems and there was no negative aspect from our point of view."
Laois/Offaly Fine Gael Deputy Olwyn Enright, TD has extended her congratulations to the organisers of Fleadh Cheoil na hireann 2008, following what she described as its phenomenal success over the last nine days.
Deputy Enright said that it was a "fantastic achievement" for Tullamore and the region to play host to such a prestigious event. "It is the second time that a Fleadh was held in Tullamore and it is a great opportunity for the region," she stated.
"Having been involved in local events myself, I know the commitment that is required by people to organise this event. It is takes great drive and determination to get events off the ground," she said.
She paid tribute to the Chairperson of the 2008 Fleadh committee, Attracta Brady, and her hard working committee. "Bringing the Fleadh to Tullamore has been the culmination of many year's work and I would like to compliment the huge work undertaken by the organising committee as they strived to make the 2008 Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann one of the biggest events of the summer."
According to Deputy Enright, Offaly has now become a well known hub of festivals and national events such as the recent Tullamore Phoenix Festival, Birr Vintage Week, the Tullamore Agricultural Show, and many other events.
"It is a great indication for the town and the region that so many prestigious events are taking place here. It was a busy summer for the region and I am positive that everyone who visited Offaly was delighted with the warm welcome they received," the Deputy concluded.