Mr Tayto's taste of Olympic glory
AS THE OLYMPIC Games drew to a close last Sunday, the proudest Irishman in London was probably crisp-maker Ray Coyle who watched his 21-year-old daughter Natalya claim a magnificant ninth place in the modern pentathlon event.
“It was fantastic,” Coyle told me earlier this week, adding that Natalya had originally targeted a top-20 finish.
“She wants to go to Rio now . We’ll see . . . a lot can happen in four years.”
In the short term, Natalya will focus on finishing her business, economics and social studies degree in Trinity.
“She’ll continue to train. She’s still very young. It’s really up to her what she does now.”
Coyle owns Largo Foods, which produces Tayto, King and Hunky Dory crisps.
Sales this year are “flat”, he said. Exports are doing well, particularly to Australia, helped by emigration it seems.
Coyle has also developed Tayto Park in Co Meath, which has seen demand dampened by our unseasonably wet summer.
He’s forecasting 500,000 visitors for the park this year, which would be up more than 20 per cent on its opening year in 2011.
“It could have been so much more if we’d had a good summer,” he said.
“There was a lot more to see and do this year. When it’s fine we could do 5,000 or 6,000 a day. When it’s miserable, it might be 500.”
He’s drawing up a three-year plan for the park, which is part zoo and part entertainment venue, and he hopes to agree on the plan with the local council. He’s also planning to add white lions to the park’s list of animals.
Coyle’s trip to the Olympics was something of a busman’s holiday, with the Meath entrepreneur taking time out to visit London Zoo.
“There weren’t many people there but it was very interesting. I picked up a few ideas.”