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Take me to the beach

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SANDS OF TIME The amazing contrast between Dooagh beach in March 2017 (inset) and just last week. Pics: Achill Tourism

Anton McNulty

WHEN Seán Molloy, the Manager of Achill Tourism first took a video and photographs of the new beach in Dooagh and sent it to a few of the national newspapers, never in his wildest dreams did he think the story would be a world-wide sensation.
“To be honest I was hoping that maybe a few of the nationals would print a few pictures over the May Bank Holiday weekend when the news is quiet. We just wanted to get a bit of exposure for Achill. I suppose you have to be careful what you wish for,” he laughed as he recalled last week’s media frenzy surrounding the sudden reemergence of Dooagh beach, which was lost for over 30 years.
The story was initially picked up by The Irish Times on Bank Holiday Monday and here in The Mayo News on May 5, and after appearing on the RTÉ Radio One News at One that Tuesday afternoon, Seán went on a holiday to Cyprus thinking that his job was done.
The relaxing holiday with his wife Etain turned into his busiest week ever as the Manager of Achill Tourism as he was bombarded by e-mails from news agencies from around the world wanting to talk to him and get footage of the new beach.
The story was picked up by the Reuters news agency and suddenly Dooagh beach was appearing on the BBC, CNN, CBS, France 24, The Weather Channel, Time and other media outlets as far away as New Zealand and in almost every other country in between.
“At this stage between print, online and live television, I have probably done between 200 and 250 different interviews about the beach,” he explained.
“It got really big last Friday [May 5] and got busier and busier over the weekend. I was flat out answering emails and filling out forms allowing permission to use the footage.
“I was in the apartment in Cyprus and it was absolutely nuts. I was doing an interview with a US station and the next minute I was speaking to someone in New Zealand. One night I didn’t get to bed until two in the morning and was up again at 5am to talk to an English language station in Russia.
“I was in an Irish bar in Larnaca and fair play to them, they turned off the music and cleared some of the bar for me to talk to the BBC World Service on Skype. As I was on stand-by, they asked me to hold for a few more minutes as Teresa May was making an election announcement. I was thinking it seemed the top stories in the world that day were the French and British elections - and Dooagh beach!.”

Explosion of interest
The explosion in interest around the new found beach has also led to humourous exchanges on social media sites with one person posting on Facebook, “I wonder if the baby Jesus appeared would he get as much coverage as the beach in Achill?”
Since the story of the Dooagh beach went viral, Seán’s colleagues in Achill Tourism have been inundated with calls from people wanting to see the beach. The Guardian’s Ireland correspondent, Henry McDonald, travelled to Achill to write about the beach and when the story went online, it was one of the most read articles on their website.
Never in his wildest dreams did Seán believe the beach would receive so much worldwide coverage but he believes that because there is so much negative news in the world, people like to grab onto happy good news stories.
Already people are travelling to the island simply to see the beach. A group of 50 English tourists visiting Knock took time from their schedule to travel west just to visit it. The beach, Seán jokes, is almost a celebrity in its own right but feels that when all the news outlets move onto the next story, the publicity will have a huge impact on the island.
“You cannot buy this publicity for Achill, it would cost millions. If you think of how many people this story has reached it has to have gone into the hundreds of millions.
“When you are making a decision on going on holiday, it is made on emotion where everyone has an idea in their head of the place they want to see and visit. It is a different decision process than say buying a car. People will now have this idea in their head of Achill and I think they will come here in numbers.”

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