Pro Wrestler Connor Doherty Opens Irish Pub in Panyu

By Kirby John Carney, April 1, 2024

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Seamus Heaney, the renowned Irish poet known for his evocative words and great wordplay, once said, “The sense of community, the sense of identity  these things were very strong in traditional Irish life.” Irish expat Connor Doherty embodies these qualities.

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As an entrepreneur involved in pro-wrestling, teaching, and now the diverse responsibilities of owning a restaurant, Doherty is a delightfully happy and proud Irishman. The owner of the new bar, The Shamrock Inn, he mentioned the word ‘community’ 26 times during our hour-long interview. It’s clear that community is profoundly important to him. With a baby on the way, he feels an even stronger need to be a great role model for his future child, his wife, his employees, and the patrons of his bar. Ive got to be strong now for my wife, for my family. I just always feel as if I've got to be strong for the community, Connor passionately tells us.

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The Shamrock Inn is one of the many Irish bars throughout Guangzhou, alongside Hooley’s and Paddy Fields. Connor explains the origin of his bars name: “Everyone knows of the Shamrock. I wanted to include ‘inn’ in the name because with the music we have here, you can enjoy a rocking night, our rocking burgers, and certainly our rocking shots.”

The Shamrock, a three-leaved clover, is a symbol of Ireland and was used by the legendary Saint Patrick as a metaphor for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit during his missionary work. While The Shamrock Inn isn’t intended to be a holy place, it’s easy to see where its strong sense of community stems from.

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The bar is located in Clifford, close to the hospital. “I got the opportunity to come to Panyu in 2022, and I’ve been here since then,” Connor explains when discussing his journey in China. He tells us that on November 23rd, he had the exciting opportunity to take over the bar, formerly known as Oasis, from the previous owner, Dan Zao, who he describes as a “great guy, community guy.” Connor explains that the goal of any bar is to offer people a respite from the pressures of their everyday life, providing a sense of relaxation akin to that of home. “And oh my God, there’s just no better feeling than home and family,” he adds.

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The business started as a family affair, with Connor and his good friend Ray, alongside their wives, laying the foundation. While their wives approached the venture with caution, the enthusiasm of Ray and Connor was unstoppable. Yet, Connor remains grounded, often seeking advice from fellow Guangzhou bar owners. “Sean from Hooley’s invited me to the Champions League Final, Johnny of Morgan’s gives you his full, undivided attention which really feels like quality, and Rob from GOAT is something of a guru,” Connor elaborates. He speaks highly of these individuals, emphasizing the lesson learned: in the bar industry, one should neither speak ill of others nor poach employees from competing establishments.

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Unfortunately, due to health and family reasons, Ray and his wife had to step back from the business. Connor explains that what might seem like a part-time job demands full-time attention when it starts taking time away from family. Ray, primarily responsible for the menu and advertising, left a significant void when he stepped back. It took several attempts and collaborations to perfect their burger recipe, following feedback about dryness. Connor also recommends the fish and chips or the traditional UK and Ireland English breakfast.

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Managing these endeavors while teaching English full-time, conducting occasional weekend classes, and maintaining a career as a professional wrestler under the moniker ‘Mad Dog’ is a monumental task for Connor. Despite being one of many with this wrestling nickname, his stint as the AIWF European champion, mostly defended in China, is a cherished memory. Although wrestling is no longer his main focus, it still holds a special place in his heart. He humorously shared his idea for a custom championship belt design, featuring a beer mug, to celebrate his persona as the ‘drinking champ,’ hoping to unveil it by WrestleMania.

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Today, Connor juggles the demands of running a restaurant, preparing for fatherhood, teaching, and his wrestling persona. Just two years ago, wrestling and unhealthy habits left him struggling physically, but he has since committed to improving his lifestyle. By partnering with Ginour and incorporating early morning runs, he finds motivation in bettering himself daily. Concluding our interview, Connor shared, “The motivation and passion of just making myself better, knowing that every day is an opportunity to improve, you just have to ask the right questions or look in the right direction,” reminding us of the importance of community and personal growth.

[Images via Connor Doherty]

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