Niamh O’Donovan – A Force to Reckon With
By Lani Gering
Arriving in the United States from the village of Ballinhassig in County Cork, Ireland on August 22, 2002 and landing in sunny California with her former husband – a Navy Captain – this Irish beauty decided to make Alexandria her home after living the “military wife life” traversing the nation. She tells me that when they arrived in Alexandria and she took a drive down King Street with her two very young sons she literally had the kind of “Aha!” moment that you hear about people having when everything just seems to click. She says that Old Town is the closest place she’s found that reminds her of home. She loves the history we are surrounded with as well as the diversity of the people who live in this area and the energy created by being so close to the Nation’s Capital.
Speaking of energy…Niamh is full of it. Between her gig as the General Manager of O’Connell’s Restaurant & Bar (OC) in Old Town, two very active teenage sons (Conor and Brody) and her three rescue pups (Billy, Daisy and Lady Piper) she is constantly on the go.
I met Niamh before she took the helm as General Manager at O’Connell’s while watching Ireland play in the popular Six Nations Tournament that was being aired in real time at the restaurant. That particular morning she was selling raffle tickets benefitting the newly formed Alexandria Youth Rugby league. I will venture to say that there probably wasn’t a single person who didn’t buy a few from her. She’s a very convincing sales person to say the least. With her wild curly brunette hair, Irish lilt and larger than life personality she stands out in a crowd.
Niamh grew up in a family business, the Laurel Wood House B&B, owned her own business, Acorn Property Management, both in Ireland and continued down the real estate path when she came to the States until she landed at O’Connell’s 5 years ago. Along the way she became a qualified silver and goldsmith while living in Hawaii and was active in Equestrian Eventing (dressage, cross country and show jumping) until a few years ago. Just not enough time in her day at this juncture of her life.
She approaches all that she does with passion. It is rare that you find someone who takes as much pride in what she does as Niamh does. She described O’Connell’s and all of the employees as her third child and puts herself on the line every day. Like she said, “I take pride in what I do and the buck stops with me. I want people to say ‘she does a good job and you know what you’re getting with Niamh’.” She is a pro in the hospitality business and is very active in the Old Town Community. She serves on the Boards of the Old Town Business Association, the Chamber of Commerce and Visit Alexandria. I can only imagine what a breath of fresh air she is to those entities.
When you ask Niamh about her boys she lights up as well. Conor and Brody are two very handsome and active teenagers who are lighting up rugby pitches around the area. Rugby has played a large part in her life starting with her father who played for years in Cork. I asked if she played rugby ‘back in the day’ and she just laughed and told me that if you count playing rugby in Phys Ed then the answer is yes!
She says she is a sucker for all animals with an affinity for horses and dogs. In addition to the boys, she wrangles three rescue pooches that have come to her from all over – Billy from Hawaii, Daisy from Puerto Rico and her standard poodle Lady Piper from North Carolina. I live in a one cat household and cannot fathom having two teenagers and three fur kids in my space on a regular basis!
If you would like to meet this dynamo in person, stop in at O’Connell’s and tell her you saw her profile in the Old Town Crier. You can pretty much catch her in the restaurant on any day. You won’t be disappointed that’s for sure.