IT WAS, remarked a guest at the mammoth party thrown by JP and Noreen McManus in the grounds of Adare Manor last Saturday night, a little bit like a scene from F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby. Every celebrity in the country – and plenty from further afield – seemed to be there.
The well known faces were everywhere, as around 2,000 guests came together in what was believed to have been the biggest marquee ever erected in Europe. They were all there to celebrate the glorious career of the 20-time champion National Hunt jockey AP McCoy – as well as to have a great time.
The finer details, including the layout for the giant two-story marquee, were masterminded by London company Fait Accompli, which bills itself as “one of the world’s leading international event organisers” and promises “legendary parties”. It certainly delivered on that claim.
Seemingly endless bottles of Dom Pérignon 2005 were poured by the hundreds of staff on duty. At around €150 a bottle, it was one of three fine vintages offered to guests to wash down the main course of fillet of beef.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader in 2012 about the similarly spectacular party he and Noreen threw on the grounds of their Martinstown home that summer, JP said: “There was maybe criticism in some quarters for having a party, but it does something for the economy when you have a party. We had people from different parts of the world and because they’re coming they plan on having a week in Ireland, or 10 days. It adds to the economy. I think you need it. It helps – you need more events.”
There was certainly no criticism of the latest enormous bash from the Limerick hotels who were fully booked because of it. In addition, the record for the number of staff on duty at a single party in this country was surely shattered. Shuttle buses from seven hotels transported guests to and from the marquee, with the first arrivals entering the spectacular venue around 6pm and those with staying power still going strong when breakfast was served at 4am.
Sean Lally, manager of The Strand, one of the hotels which had full occupancy, said: “The crème de la crème from the racing, political and sporting world were here.
“I think nearly every hotel in the region was full. It was a wonderful boost to the hotels in the local economy. Literally every bed in Limerick was full last weekend and some people stayed for two nights.
“It was fantastic to have that profile coming into the region and showing them what we have on offer. I think it’s great news that JP McManus bought the Adare Manor and I am looking forward to seeing what he does with it in the future.”
Ivan Tuohy, manager of the Clarion, which was another booked-out city hotel, said that the huge number of overseas visitors at the event was “very positive” for Limerick’s tourism.
He said that the star-studded party was “well-organised from start to finish.
“What I found was very good was that he [JP] brought a lot of people who weren’t from Limerick — and who didn’t know much about Limerick — to the area,” he said, adding that a lot of guests visited the region’s attractions during their stay.
Each of the 10 seating areas in the two-storey marquee was named in honour of a famous McCoy winner. Perhaps fittingly, the areas closest to the stage were named after horses on which arguably the greatest jump jockey of them all wore the green and gold colours of JP McManus – Grand National winner Don’t Push It and Gold Cup champion Synchronised.
Ten great McCoy race rides were shown to guests on big screens erected around the marquee, after being introduced by popular British sports broadcaster Clare Balding.
The evening’s MC insisted she was completely in the dark about the “mystery guest” she introduced on stage after the well-received warm-up act, former Westlife star Shane Filan. When the surprise star attraction dramatically appeared on stage, there were gasps from all around the marquee as Robbie Williams, one of the best-selling artists of all time, blasted out his hit song Let Me Entertain You.
He kept that promise in spades and the word was that people from as far away as Croom could hear him sing hit after hit. The charismatic former Take That member, a solo star for many years, nearly lifted the roof off the marquee when he concluded his set with Angels, but he wasn’t quite done.
As he began to croon his encore, Frank Sinatra’s My Way, guests were delighted to see man of the moment AP McCoy clamber on stage and join him in an emotional duet. For many, it was the highlight of a remarkable night – and not surprisingly the iron man who retired aged 40 this April after 17,630 races and a record 4,348 winners was truly moved.
With the invitation list a strictly guarded secret, the scale of the event was so big that not all of the big names in attendance were spotted, but they mostly came from worlds of sport, politics, business and entertainment.
Among the luminaries were Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Princess Anne and her daughter, Zara Phillips; Cabinet ministers Michael Noonan, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, plus a host of local TDs and councillors. Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was there with his daughter, the best-selling writer Cecilia Ahern. Amongst the local celebrities were fashion guru Celia Holman Lee and comedian/actor Pat Shortt, along with his former sidekick in D’Unbelievables, Jon Kenny.
Top dogs from the business world included the mega-wealthy Denis O’Brien and Dermot Desmond. From sport, soccer legends Liam Brady and Alan Hansen and GAA icons Nicky English and Eddie Keher, plus many past and present Limerick hurling stars, joined a legion of McCoy’s former racing colleagues.
Naturally, there was a huge turnout from the jump jockeys who once rode against the champion, including young Limerick rider Robbie McNamara, who was warmly greeted by many well-wishers after his recent serious fall.
The world of Flat racing was also hugely represented, with the world’s best jockey Ryan Moore in attendance alongside top trainers such as Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden.
Irish rugby icon Brian O’Driscoll was there with his wife, the actress and novelist Amy Huberman, but the former Leinster star was outnumbered by the Munster legends in attendance, who included current Ireland captain Paul O’Connell, and the now retired Jerry Flannery, Peter Stringer and David Wallace.
Some stayed the pace longer than others, but all agreed it was quite an extraordinary party.