Dating Advice: Ireland’s Top Matchmaker Reveals His Tips For Singles

For decades, many love stories started under the clock at Clerys on O’Connell Street. In a time when text messages and social media platforms were non-existent, it was the perfect pre-date meeting point and it holds a special place in the hearts of thousands of happily married Irish couples. Today, traditional approaches to matchmaking and dating have changed rapidly. Online dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Plenty of Fish and Grindr have soared in popularity and dating agencies like Intro have made matchmaking easier to access.

However, finding ‘the one’ can be a frustrating, long and difficult process. We spoke to Feargal Harrington, Director and Co-Founder of Intro Matchmaking about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the dating world.  

Feargal Harrington

Feargal’s top dating tips:

Be willing to travel: ‘When it comes to dating, we find an awful lot of people are unwillingly to travel. We receive calls from potential clients asking that they only be paired with men/women in certain areas, regions, counties, etc. Love isn’t as simple as that, you’re not buying a house or a product, you’re looking for a human with whom you want to spend the rest of your life with and so, you need to be approaching it with a very much open-minded, flexible, willingness to compromise attitude. Look at the person and not the location.’

Make time for dating: ‘Between working late at the executive job or focusing on our social commitments, people often tell us that they simply don’t have time for dating and that’s when they turn to online services like Tinder and Bumble. Irish people have no problem going onto free dating apps because they’re just having the craic – online dating has become so fickle and transient, people are on there and have zero intention of ever starting a relationship. People dismiss others on a whim, they go out on 20 dates week, coffee dates for five minutes at a time, and the attitude is if there’s no spark there straight away then there’s no point. You can’t judge a person based on a five-minute meeting. Dating is work, it requires time, money, effort and commitment. If you’re the type of person who wants the long-term relationship, the marriage and the kids, you need to be committed to finding the right person.’

Don’t be an academic snob: ‘This is the biggest issue from women to men. There are a huge number of single, highly successful, highly educated women in this country but for every one woman who has third level education there is only 0.6 of an equivalent in men. Women are much more drawn to third level, much more drawn to doing a masters at night time and a PhD here, a PhD there, and a lot of the time they can let education define who they are entirely. We have to decline about seven women every day for this reason. They say (and insist) ‘’I’ve got a PhD from Trinity College therefore I feel I’m only suited to men with the same qualifications as me’’. The thing is, there are men in this country who left school when they were 15 years-old, started a business and are now successful entrepreneurs. And they achieved this with no degrees, masters or PhDs. We tend to judge a lot, we look outwardly at what the other person is bringing to the table and what’s wrong with the other person as opposed to seeing our own flaws. My advice is: look at the person and not the occupation or qualifications they may or may not have.’

Change your expectations: ‘You’re not searching for someone who is perfect, you’re searching for someone who is perfect for you. If you’re approach and requirements in a relationship have always been the same and things haven’t worked out, switch it up. There is no way any one person will tick every one of your boxes. We’ve seen with our clients that those who find their perfect match are those who have a realistic opinion of themselves and focus on why a person is suitable for them rather than obsessing about the reasons why they’re not. Willingness to compromise and willingness to have grounded, level-headed expectations is important. If you’ve got a list of requirements for a potential partner, you need to revisit it and make necessary cuts.’

Give the spark a chance: ‘You meet a man/woman and he/she doesn’t exactly fit your criteria, so you write them off straight away. You need to give people a chance. I always recommend my clients go on a second date. People can be like night and day from the first and second date. Think about it – people can be nervous, or they might have had a bad day at work – you cannot judge the entire person based on one experience in a nervous setting. The next time you meet them, they might be calmer, more collected and more at ease. Unless you get extremely offended on the first date, I always recommend going on a second date. You’ll know more after a second date.’

First Date

The first date – Feargal’s tips on how to approach it

Intro Matchmaking, which Feargal founded with his wife Rena Maycock, is one of the biggest matchmaking agencies in the country, organising a hundred dates every week. When prepping their clients for the first date, here are their top tips:

No interviews: ‘In an attempt to establish a person’s suitability, we often bombard them with questions, making them feel like they’re at a HR conference rather than a lovely dinner date. Fight the urge to ask too many questions. Be interested without looking like an interviewer.

Do not moan, moan and moan: ‘Keep the conversation light – do not talk about exes, do not talk about past relationships that went and do not come across angry or bitter. The first meeting is not an opportunity for you to complain about your ex-wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend, your job, or other things that annoy you. Topics like these make the other person uncomfortable. Focus as much as possible on your date.

Smart-casual dress: ‘Don’t overdo the outfit. Don’t go all suited and booted to a mediocre venue that doesn’t require it. Present yourself well, look fresh and clean but don’t go too overboard for the first date.’

Exes are not on the menu: ‘This is an absolute no-go. Conversations about exes or dating history put a negative spin on the date. Keep the conversation positive by talking about your future goals or your interests.’

Make an effort: ‘Dating is hard work. You must try to generate topics of conversation. Simply arriving isn’t enough – you must take part and talk, talk, talk.’

Leave the phone alone: ‘Nothing says ‘’you’re boring me’’ like someone scrolling through their Instagram feed, sending text messages, or taking/making a call during a date. Leave the phone alone – it’s just rude.’

Be open to the split: ‘Men are ordinarily happy to treat the woman to a nice dinner but it’s important to be open to splitting the bill. Don’t be tight, don’t have the calculator on your phone ready as soon as the waiting staff set the bill down. Be fair and gracious.’

Be open and honest: ‘If you’re interested in the person, say it. Don’t do the usual ‘’we’ll see what happens’’, be honest, tell the person you had a great time and that you would like to see them again. On the other side, if you felt no connection or spark, it’s important to be brutally honest. Deliver it in a nice way, for example, ‘’I had a nice time, the conversation was great, the food was great, but I just didn’t feel any chemistry’’. Giving someone false hope is just cruel.’

Future Dating

The future of dating – what does it look like?

According to recent studies and surveys, the popularity of online dating sites like Tinder and Bumble will continue to rise, virtual reality dates will become popular, and matching people based on their DNA and genome could be a thing.

But Feargal believes there is only so much tech can do and no matter how smart an algorithm is, differentiating between people who are just up for a laugh and those who want a relationship is difficult.

‘DNA matching is pure madness,’ he tells us, ‘I don’t think there will ever be an algorithm for a dating site that will ever work. If it ever could exist, it would exist by now or one of the multimillion-dollar companies would have bought it. Intro uses a client relations management system to track and facilitate the matchmaking, but seven humans make a decision on matches and not an algorithm.

‘Virtual reality dates are a no-go. Sitting in front of a computer screen gives people a false sense of security and confidence. They have filters on the screen to enhance their appearance, they’re more relaxed, making them funnier and wittier, but it’s not a true representation of the person. Take things offline, get out and meet people.’

Feargal Harrington is the Director and Co-Founder of Intro Matchmaking.