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Top o’ the Mornin’ at O’Neill’s

Downtown pub has a lock on St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, according to patrons – and the crowd there by noon supports the claim.

Downtown San Mateo has a few options for Irish pub fun – there’s on Fourth Avenue, and (more of a sports bar) just a couple blocks over on B Street. And if you're not particular about which part of the British Isles we're talking about, there’s always on 25th Avenue.

But according to the patrons at , there’s only one place in San Mateo to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is the place, this is it,” said O’Neill’s faithful John Kilcullen, a native of Ireland and longtime transplant to San Mateo who has been coming here since the pub’s opening 14 years ago. As of 11:30 this morning, Kilcullen was already ordering his second Guinness and nipping into a plate of corned beef.

The pub had dozens of happy patrons at the bar this morning, and more walking in by the minute. There was Irish music on the jukebox, an outdoor beergarden set up, and tins full of corned beef and cabbage ready to go (catered by nearby for $10 a plate). Festivities will continue throughout the day and into the night.

“We expect 3,000 people here today,” said owner Eoin O’Neill, who described O’Neill’s as the most successful pub on the Peninsula. He is also the owner of the O’Neill’s in San Francisco next to the Giants ballpark.

Calling it the “irony of ironies,” O’Neill said his San Mateo establishment opened its doors precisely on St. Patrick’s Day 14 years ago. So besides being a celebration of all things Irish, today is an anniversary celebration for the pub too – and O’Neill’s biggest business day of the year.

By noon, revelers were pouring more rapidly into O’Neill’s, and the beergarden was humming. Some patrons were ordering burgers from next door, but plenty more were enjoying the corned beef.

Most days, though, this pub is just a great place to hang out, said Kilcullen, pointing to a sign stenciled on the wall reading, “There are no strangers at O'Neill's, only friends you’ve never met.”

“And that’s how it is,” he said. “It’s like the Cheers of San Mateo.”

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