BACKSTAGE after playing to the thousands of locals and visitors in Abbey Street Car Park on Sunday, Michael Flatley happily posed for photos with young and old and embraced with friends such as Clare fiddle maestro Martin Hayes.
Speaking to the media, he reflected on the 1977 Fleadh in Ennis and spoke about how much it meant to him to open Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2017 in County Clare.
“It’s better [than touring the world] in many ways because it’s rooted in Irish music and that’s what I love, and what I do around the world is show business. I love it as well but it’s a different feeling. In fact Ger Fahy, who has been around the world with me, we were talking just before we went up there, saying it’s a great feeling being here doing this. It’s a wonderful feeling,” said Flatley.
Reflecting on his performance, he told The Clare People it brought him back to his younger days in Clare when he competed in and won a competition at the Fleadh in ‘77.
“Yeah it does [bring me back]. That was a long time ago.
“My dear friend Ger Fahy gave me a call and he said, how would you feel about coming and opening the Fleadh.
“It didn’t take me a second to answer — it’s a dream, I haven’t been to the Fleadh in a long time and I always loved it. As I said, I think young people will teach us so much going forward. Young people are the way to the future, and I’m sure there are so many fabulous young players out there who could play rings around me and most of the guys my age so it’s a dream for me to see this and it’s a dream for me to be here today.”
Asked if he would be hanging around Ennis after the opening, Flatley joked that he would be stopping after 30 pints. He also revealed that the last time he took part in a Fleadh was that visit to Ennis in ‘77.
“The last Fleadh I may have been to was here. 40 years. We’ve been touring the world and working. Sadly my music took a backseat to the dancing…”
Flatley said that dancing helped him employ a number of young people to follow their dream in traditional Irish dance, before paying tribute to Ruan native Eimear Arkins, who joined Flatley on stage.
“That young girl Eimear on the violin, wasn’t she fabulous. She was in here tonight [backstage]. We played a tune before she went up and I said, ‘come and do the show with us’. It’s young people like that you want to encourage to go on and do great things. They are the future.”
Speaking about the reaction from the crowd, he said, “Isn’t it the most wonderfully satisfying feeling. I couldn’t hear myself, there wasn’t a lot of feedback from the mikes. I was playing by feel but I was able to get that energy back from the audience and I knew that I was in line because of their reaction and it is absolutely a dream.
“I played just a couple of bars of The Coolin because It was my mother’s favourite piece of music, she loved that.
The Chicago native added that he was inspired to see so many young faces in the crowd.
“Fantastic — it’s inspiring. I’m always inspired around young people. I can just tell from the sparkle in their eyes it’s one of their best days being here and playing music, being together and learning music. It’s a fantastic thing for them. It’s the gift you can leave for young people, music. Irish music is the best music in the world.
“So if there are young people reading this, listen to your folks, work hard and you can have anything in the world you want.
“There is no greater career I could possibly imagine advising you to get into is Irish music song or dance.”

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Stuart returned to his native county to join The Clare People team as a reporter having spent his 20s studying and working in Dublin with the national media. The Ennis native most recently worked as a subeditor with the Irish Daily Star for three years before which he worked as a subeditor with the Irish Independent and as a reporter with The Evening Herald. He holds a BA in Journalism and Visual Media from Griffith College Dublin. Contact Stuart at [email protected]

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