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Dublin: -2 °C Thursday 27 November, 2014

Hurlers for hire? New website allows you to book a date with an Irish sporting hero

GiftEncounters.com has come up with an original idea which offers the chance to spend time with the likes of Brian Hogan, Shane Byrne and Ken Doherty.

Shane Byrne with two Leinster fans.
Shane Byrne with two Leinster fans.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

HAVE YOU EVER wanted to play a frame of snooker with Ken Doherty or spend the evening at a Leinster match with Shane Byrne?

Well a new website is offering a number of exclusive packages to hire one of several well-known Irish sports personalities on their books for specific events or as a birthday present for a loved one.

GiftEncounters.com is the brainchild of entrepreneur Fiona McLoughlin and went live three weeks ago.

At the moment, it features the likes of Kilkenny’s All-Ireland-winning captain Brian Hogan, team-mate Michael Fennelly and Dublin hurler Ryan O’Dwyer, who are all available to appear at parties, while horse trainer Michael Halford’s service involves a day at the races.

Outside sport, developing your own signature dish with Michelin Star chef Derry Clarke or taking a masterclass with author Anna McPartlin are just two other options.

We can’t keep up with the amount of interest we’ve had so far,” McLoughlin told TheScore, who also founded Privateseller.ie and originally thought of the idea three years ago.

“Grass is greener’ was the working name. It’s all about the idea of getting a peak into other people’s lives. The sports side of it was an obvious move. Everyone has a favourite sport, team or player.”

One particular package offers two snooker fans an all-access invitation to next month’s World Championship final at the Crucible, where they will enjoy dinner with the 1997 champion and, the following day, take their premium seats alongside Doherty.

For the €1,900 fee, they are also given the chance to have a drink in the players’ bar and attend the official post-tournament party.

Prices may be on the steep side, but according to McLoughlin, “you literally can’t buy this anywhere else”.

The website will soon branch out into other sports and is looking to add golf, cycling and motor sports in the coming months. Visitors are also encouraged to request the sporting hero they would like most and GiftEncounters.com will attempt to arrange it.

An exclusive opportunity to spend time with Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard is also on the cards for this July while they are in talks with Punchestown about finalising a deal which would allow the buyer to visit the course and the weigh-in room, where they would meet top jockeys such as Barry Geraghty and Paul Carberry.

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