Hughes’s Bar, Cordal – 2005 – 2015 – The First 10 Years

Yesterday evening, ten years ago to the day,  Hughes’s Bar opened its doors in Cordal for the first time. It was officially opened on St. Patrick’s Day of that year but the weekend was used as a ‘dry run’ – if you’ll pardon the contradiction.

It was the first official pub in Cordal but there were others operating below whatever radar picked up unofficially run public houses in those far off days.

I covered the opening of Hughes’s that Friday evening for The Kerryman and you can read it here.

I also asked Moira to trawl the past decade and see what she could come up with to celebrate the fact and the passing years.


Fadó, fadó there were people around here who believed that the absence of a public house in Cordal should qualify as the eighth wonder of the world.

There were many others who could only concur with the belief. For years the people of Cordal sent their finest and best drinkers the few miles west the road to Castleisland – and they did their part of the parish proud.

They helped generations of town-based publicans to amass their fortunes and to realise various empire building ambitions.

Now the flow of traffic is due to go the other way as Cordal opened its very own public house at the weekend.

Sean Hughes and Moira O’Connor took up their positions behind the purpose built bar on Friday evening around 5pm.

In the week leading up to the great occasion there was a flurry of finishing touches of the exterior and interior variety to be tackled. An army of help and a spell of the most compliant weather conditions aided these.

The great occasion arrived and the honour of the first pint from the new taps fell to Tom Hughes – the father of the co-proprietor.

Locals arrived into the yard, their tongues parched with the thirst of years of anticipation, enquiring if the place was open yet. It was as if the dream – unfulfilled for so long – would be whipped from their lips before they dared to drink it in.

Among the first at the bar was Castleisland taxi driver, Dermot Horan – who readily agreed that the occasion couldn’t be held without him. Dermot was there, and the car was in dry dock, with his partner Mary O’Connor and Johnny Cahill from Currow. Up the counter, Joan Daly from Tooreengarrive Glen and her friend, Michael O’Connor were taking in the strangeness of the atmosphere and raising glasses to the new venture.

The most local of the first batch of customers was Denis Moriarty and he felt that the pub would be a great asset to locals who liked to take a drink.

Many natives found that travelling to Castleisland in hired transport in recent times was proving too costly at the end of a night out and that being able to drink in your own locality had many hidden advantages, – Denis felt.  – ©John Reidy – The Kerryman 17-3-2005

The Story behind the Opening of Cordal’s First Pub 

By Moira O’Connor-Hughes

We opened our doors 10 years this coming week. It was such a historic occasion as this was the first bar in Cordal.

This is something that worried me when Sean first introduced the idea of the bar.I felt if this was such a good idea how come anybody else hadn’t built one before now?

But after weeks and probably months of discussion and deliberations we decided we were going to run with it and take the risk! I was only 24 and Sean 27 so we knew this was big and something we needed to put everything into if we were going to succeed.

Both Sean and I had absolutely no experience at all in this game. Sean went into ‘Josie O’ Shea’s’ pub in Tralee where we bought the licence for a night or two to see how to change a barrel and how to serve a pint! We were also fortunate to have a great friend and neighbor, Donnacha Murphy help us out with things like layout of the serving area and point us in the right direction. The build itself was relatively quick as Sean, his father Tom and brother in law Mossie were able to do a lot of work themselves and this speeded things up.

We started the ground work in August 2004 and with a lot of sweat and sleepless nights we had it ready to go for March 2005.St.Patricks day was our aim to open our doors as we thought this was an ideal day to introduce the first bar to Cordal and the wider community.

Looking back now this day is a bit of a blur for us both. It was the day when all our hard work and time would pay off if all ran according to plan.

I now thank God we were both that young as at that age fear isn’t as big as it would have been now. The older you get the more you worry about things and we may not have taken the risk at all if it was now!

From the moment we opened our doors on that St. Patrick’s Day in 2005 people started to stream in. People we knew well, people we didn’t know at all. At one stage we had eleven people behind the bar between washing glasses, serving, stocking! It was an unbelievably day, one that we will never forget.

It exceeded any expectation we had as to how well our official opening would be. People were so good and kind, wishing us both well. We received cards and gifts from people near and far. It was then we both realised that it was greeted by the local people and beyond with great enthusiasm and excitement. For months after every night of the week was really busy. People came from all parts of Kerry to see the new bar and how well it was received into the community. We loved being part of this!

From that day on, it has served the purpose we both intended it to be. It is the hub of the community. We have had both young and old celebrate important milestones with us. We see how important it is for people to meet and have the chat.This is something you cannot understand until you stand behind the bar on a random Tuesday night and see people come in on their own and within a few minutes they are with five or six others having the laugh and talking about the day that was!

It is important for people especially in rural communities to have somewhere that they can go during the week for a mineral or a pint and a chat beside the fire. Loneliness and isolation are major problems in rural communities and we can see first hand how important it is for people to have somewhere welcoming to come for a chat if they feel the need.

It is from chats like these that the ‘Noisy Neighbours/Hughes Bar’ Movember group of lads came about. The lads decided that they would take part in the ‘Movember’ grow a moustache campaign to raise much needed funds for prostate cancer and research.

The lads have hosted four fantastic nights here in the bar over the last four years at the end of November and to date they have raised over €34,000 for this fantastic cause.The Movember fundraising nights highlight the importance of men’s health and early detection and how it can save ones life.

But most of all this night shows how truly generous people are despite the difficult economic climate we live in and shows unbelievable community spirit.

We cannot thank people enough for their support. Ten years ago we had a vision of what it might become but we could not have envisaged the success it is today. This is all down to the people who come into our bar that have made it what it is.

We are very proud of the bar it has become and we are delighted that people feel comfortable and welcomed enough to come in and enjoy an evening with us. Cordal has a wonderful community that we are delighted to be part of. It is ironic that this year the Cordal GAA are also celebrating the opening of the newly refurbished pitch after months and possibly years of hard work on the part of the Committee.

We had a great night with the GAA in November 2013 when they won the Super Value All Ireland community fund competition .It was a great honour to hold the drinks reception for this and to have GAA president Liam O’ Neill and sports commentator Marty Morrisey being marched from the bar to the GAA grounds by a team of lads with lit sods of turf. This is a very special memory that we will treasure with the rest!

This week as we celebrate 10 wonderful years with the Cordal people and wider community we feel blessed and fortunate that we have had the honour of being the proprietors of the first bar in Cordal. It is extremely special to us. I cannot conclude without thanking our families the O’ Connors and Hughes for their help, guidance and support from the very beginning. We could not have done it without them.

To our fantastic bar staff past and present that we are extremely fortunate to have. Last but not least to our loyal friends/customers and the community of Cordal and beyond, we look forward to sharing our bar with you for many many years to come and thank you most sincerely for your support and friendship.

We will mark this special occasion with the original band from St.Patrick’s Day 2005 ‘Dan Dan- Wallop the Cat’  from 7pm to 10pm all on St. Patrick’s Day. We hope you can join us to raise a glass to celebrate Ten years in business!