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Mayo fans show their passion at the All-Ireland GAA football finals in 2012 Photo by: Irish Independent

The top ten must-see annual sporting, music and fun events in Ireland

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Mayo fans show their passion at the All-Ireland GAA football finals in 2012 Photo by: Irish Independent

1. All-Ireland Hurling and Football Finals

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), Ireland’s largest sporting organisation, has held the All-Ireland hurling and gaelic football finals since 1887. Since 1908, 82,000 hurling and football fans have gathered in early September in Croke Park, the organisation’s headquarters, to watch these spectacular games. CNN has ranked the All-Ireland Hurling Final second on their “10 Sporting Events You Have to See Live” list calling it the “fastest and oldest field game in the world.” You definitely don’t want to miss watching the counties battle it out for the Sam MaGuire and the Liam McCarthy cup.
   
2. Oxegen Music Festival

The Oxegen Music Festival, sponsored by Heineken, has been held at the Punchestown Racecourse in County Kildare since 2004. Considered as Ireland’s answer to the UK’s Glastonbury Festival, Oxegen runs for four days in August each year with an average attendance of 60,000 people per day. Big names such as Lady Gaga, Eminem, Jay-Z, Coldplay, and Beyoncé have headlined the festival in past years. Although Oxegen took a break in 2012, it plans to be back in full swing this year with David Guetta, Calvin Harris, and Pitbull headlining. Get your tent and wellies ready for this must-attend event.



3. Ted Fest

The Ted Fest is held on the island of Inishmore at the end of February each year. This long weekend event is a celebration of the Channel 4 TV show, “Father Ted,” which finished airing in 1998. With only twenty-five episodes total, the series has managed to sell over 1 million box sets of the complete series. The show continued to gain a myriad of followers after its finale, many of whom gather on Inis Mor, or “Craggy Island,” in February and reenact The Craggy Cup and Ted’s Got Talent all while dressed up as their favourite character. This is a must-attend for Father Ted fans.

The Ted Fest website jokes:

“So we'll all meet every year at the end of February on a small island in the Atlantic”

“That's mad Ted'



4. St Patrick's Day Festival

The annual St. Patrick’s Day festival takes place over five days in the middle of March in Dublin. Buildings like Trinity College are illuminated green and carnivals are assembled as the city celebrates St. Patrick’s feast day. You can attend funfairs, music and comedy performances, and educational tours while dressed in your finest green gear. Kindling Irish pride, there is something for everyone to enjoy during this lively week of activities.



5. Galway Races

The Galway Races, held during the last week of July each year since 1869 at the Ballybrit racecourse, is Ireland’s biggest and most famous horse racing festival. Over 150,000 people attend the races, dressed in their extravagant hats and elegant dresses. There is fun for the whole family with “Mad Hatter’s Day” where people show off their wackiest and most creative hats. Considered as Ireland’s version of the Royal Ascot and The Kentucky Derby, you’re guaranteed to have some fun at this exciting event.

6. Killorglin Puck Fair

Killorglin Puck Fair is Ireland’s oldest fair and is held at the beginning of August each year in Kerry. Legend has it that the fair originated during the early 1600s when a male goat, known in Irish as a “poc,” broke from his herd to warn the town of the approaching Redhead army, led by Oliver Cromwell. Having time to prepare themselves, the town has been forever grateful for the goat’s warning and celebrates it each year with traditional music, dance, food, and storytelling. The Fair begins when a wild mountain goat is selected and crowned “King Puck” and is adorned in the centre of the town. Special horse and cattle fairs are set up throughout the town and the celebrations continue into the night with pubs staying open until 3:00am.



7. Rose of Tralee

The Rose of Tralee International Festival has been drawing young women of Irish descent to Tralee since its debut in 1959.  The name of the festival originates from the love song, “The Rose of Tralee” by William Mulchinock who wrote this song for the love of his life, Mary O’Connor after she died. Because of their differences in social class, William was prevented from forming a relationship with her but wrote the song to express his great love. Young women of Irish descent from all of the world are selected to represent their county or city and showcase their personality and talent in the August festival. The woman chosen as the Rose of Tralee best represents the attributes described in the song. Along with the festival, music performances, discos, and family activities take place in the town of Tralee for all to enjoy.

Presenter Daithi O'Se with some of  the 2011 32 Roses during their visit to RTE

8. Taste of Dublin

Taste of Dublin is held in the middle of June in Iveagh Gardens each year. With more than 100 exhibitors and appearances from celebrity chefs, this event is foodie-heaven. Visitors can attend cooking lessons, wine tastings, and even watch world-class chefs from Dublin restaurants cook their best meals. More than 30,000 people attended the event this year. In the past, top chefs Rachel Allen, Darina Allen, and Jamie Oliver have attended.

9. Guinness Cork Jazz Festival

The Cork Jazz Festival is Ireland’s largest jazz festival and is held in October every year. Jazz fans can attend voice lessons, guitar lessons, and jazz lessons from renowned musicians with free admission in over 90 venues. The event has been headlined by famous Jazz musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald since its introduction in 1978 and draws crowds of over 40,000 each year. This arts and cultural event draws visitors from all over the world and is considered one of the best jazz festivals in Europe. 

10. Bloom Festival

The Bloom Festival, Ireland’s top gardening show, is held at the end of May each year in Phoenix Park. Local gardeners can apply to exhibit at the festival and have local consumers taste their produce and view their gardens. In 2013, 110,000 visitors joined over 1000 gardeners for the event. The show greatly boosts the Irish food and horticulture sector and has been paramount in encouraging consumers to buy locally. There is plenty of great food for the whole family to enjoy and fun activities run by Hamleys toy shop to keep children occupied.

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