Remember speed dating? It’s back and you have four minutes to find love

Your Friend, My Friend, run by Samantha and Eoin Keating, has already brought together several couples looking for love

Speed dating is back, and becoming increasingly popular as singletons opt to ditch dating apps, choosing to meet people in person again instead of swiping for love.

One company capitalising on this is Your Friend, My Friend, which has been running speed dating and singles nights since May 2023, having already brought together several couples.

Married couple Samantha and Eoin Keating set up Your Friend, My Friend after one of Samantha’s friends from her native Vancouver moved to Ireland, was single, and sick of dating apps.

They ran a speed dating night to help their friend meet people in person again and with the intent of donating the money to charity, but after the success of this initial event, which attracted 20 men and 20 women, people were asking when the next event would be, “and it’s been kind of snowballing since then,” Samantha says.


The couple have since run more than 20 events and decided to branch into singles nights to bring more people together using icebreaker games and mini speed dating, with one event having a mind reader and another a comedian.

After events held in Dublin, Cork and Galway, they just recently ran their first singles night in Limerick.

“Something has shifted in how people want to meet again, because the apps were so dominant for so long and then obviously Covid, two years of not really being able to interact a whole pile. There’s just a big appetite now for these types of events, the demand is just going up, so we need more people,” Eoin says.

The couple sold more than 200 tickets for their pre-Valentine’s Day event in just two hours, and it sold out shortly after.

For their speed dating events, everyone gets checked in with a name tag, a number and a booklet. Women sit at a numbered table and stay in their spot for the night, and the men rotate every four minutes when a bell is rung.

The company has so far run one event for gay men but hope to host more LGBTQ+ events in the future.

In the booklet, attendees write the name and number of who they were talking to, and whether or not they are interested in them. There is a break half way through and at the end many people stay to mingle or have another drink, particularly on a Friday night.

“We collect all the cards off everybody, and Sam goes through them the next morning to do all the matches and then everybody gets an email with who they’ve matched with or who they haven’t matched with, or whatever their result was, and then people take it from there,” Eoin says.

The couple say that they feel the personal touch they put on things makes a difference to those in attendance.

They have often had someone at one event who the couple feel may suit someone at another, and have forwarded their details, with permission, to match them up.

“People who have come to the events [for the] first time are always really nervous and once they get into it and they have a couple of dates they just realise, it’s just so nice to be talking to somebody again and be face to face,” Samantha says.

A lot of people drink a zero [alcohol] beer or just sparkling water ... they’re definitely not drinking sessions, people are there for a reason

“I think what people see is a lot of the women match with guys that normally they might have just swiped away from quickly, looking at something small and saying, ‘I don’t like this – that’s a no’, but you can tell so much more from someone when you can see them in person, the way they act, their banter, the way they carry themselves and speak.

“A lot of people are surprised with who they match with, actually go on dates with and enjoy spending time with. I get a lot of messages and emails from people after, saying who they went on dates with and how they went and how things are going, so it’s really nice for us. A lot of the women especially keep us in the loop, so we’re really invested in everybody’s love lives at the moment.”

The company mainly caters for a 30s-40s age group, but they have run other events for different age groups, such as a wine tasting night which mainly involved people around their 50s. The singles nights, however, can be a slightly younger demographic with people in their mid- to late-20s to 30s.

“We try to keep the 30s, 40s, 50s to smaller events where they actually get time to know each other and spend a bit more time together,” Samantha says.

Both the Keatings have “day jobs”, Eoin working as a physiotherapist and Samantha in a brand and marketing agency.

During the singles nights, the couple usually have four or five extra people helping them, but for the most part it is just the two of them running things.

The extra people are “just to get people chatting”, Samantha says.

“We feel that at the singles nights, a lot of people will come in and they’ll just stand on their own and they might feel a bit nervous to walk up to someone, so we call them wing men, wing women, so anybody they see on their own, they grab them and introduce them to other people, a group of people,” she says.

The events do not revolve around alcohol.

“A lot of people drink a zero [alcohol] beer or just sparkling water ... they’re definitely not drinking sessions,” Eoin says, “people are there for a reason.”

“You want to put your best foot forward,” Samantha adds. During the summer, they hope to run more events outside of pubs, such as summer barbecues or hikes, but “we need some nice weather to do some of those”.

The events are aimed at anybody who is single and genuinely looking for a significant other, they explain, but they may also help people who live alone and do not often get the chance to go out and socialise.

There’s nothing like just meeting someone face-to-face and you get a feel for their energy and what they’re like

“I’d also say guys who may not have the highest level of confidence, they’re maybe not good at chatting up girls or they’re fearful of approaching them. They get to speak to 20 girls and we’ve seen this over and over again that their confidence grows. It’s almost like practice, they’re getting better at the interaction, refining their game,” Eoin says.

“It builds their confidence without a doubt, which is really important as well, and it might be down the line where they meet somebody and then having been to a couple of speed dating events they have that ability to get into a free flowing conversation and ask for a number.”

One thing in particular that Samantha has noticed is that women purchase tickets for the events immediately, and that the men wait until closer to the event to do so or wait until the event is sold out and email or message asking if they could get a ticket.

All events have an equal number of tickets for women and men.

Fathima, who met her partner at a singles night run by Your Friend, My Friend, says that she went to the event because dating apps were not giving her what she was looking for, and she was sick of being ghosted.

So, she went to the company’s first singles night with her sister, more than six months ago, making the decision not to stick together all night and mingle with people independently.

Fathima met her partner during one of the icebreakers, where each attendee was given a card and had to find the person with the matching one.

“I was going around trying to find my match and he was sitting there with a friend, and I just remember he had a lovely smile,” Fathima says.

He was not her match, but Fathima knew she wanted to talk to him again, and she did. Her now partner approached her a while into the night, and they “literally just talked the whole night”.

“We just got on so well, we talked about everything and everything, our hobbies and interests and he just made me laugh so much that we spent the whole night talking, we stayed even after the event finished,” Fathima says.

The following week, the couple had their first date and have been dating ever since. They have met each other’s families and friends, and have got involved with each other’s hobbies, such as hurling and theatre.

“There’s nothing like just meeting someone face-to-face and you get a feel for their energy and what they’re like as opposed to just texting all the time, and then you find when you do meet up that chemistry might not be there like you thought it was.”

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here