Droumleigh Construction’s vital signs look very good!

16 Jun , 2021  

One of West Cork’s premier building contractors, Droumleigh Construction has carved out a niche for itself as a proven specialist operating within the healthcare sector. With two huge projects currently up and running for the HSE in Clonakilty and Castletownbere, we had a chat with managing director Damian O’Neill to find out more.

Over the past two decades and more, Droumleigh Construction has forged a stellar reputation delivering a succession of professional, high-quality building projects, invariably bringing excellence and unbeatable workmanship to bear on a wide range of residential, commercial, industrial, leisure, hotel, education and healthcare work.

As the years have passed, in response to rising demand for Droumleigh’s proven expertise, founder and proprietor Damian O’Neill has found himself focussing more and more on commercial projects, with a particular emphasis on healthcare work. To this end, he is currently engaged on extensions to Castletownbere Community Hospital and Clonakilty Community Hospital, having delivered a number of major HSE projects in the Rebel County already, including the construction of no fewer than five Primary Care Centres (three of which are completed while the other two are nearing completion).

Damian anticipates that healthcare projects could account for the lion’s share of his work in the short to medium term: “We have built up a very good relationship with the HSE over the past ten years or so,” reflects the former Cork GAA midfielder. “We deliver a good product and they know that and there’s never any hassle. It comes down to giving them what they want and doing the work to a very high standard. A lot of it is common sense – you are dealing with the same people all the time and you have to make sure they are happy with the product.

“For the next twelve months, between the two hospital extensions and finishing the Primary Care Units, even if we don’t do anything else apart from HSE work, we’ll still have more than enough to keep us going. We’re building three social housing units in Ballyvourney for Cork County Council, too, but it’s going to be mostly healthcare work next year anyway.”

The Droumleigh Construction team have been on site at Castletownbere Community Hospital since September, 2019, completing an extension to the existing building. “This project has had to be completed in stages as it’s an occupied building,” Damian notes. “We’ve essentially had to carry out all the internal work in phases while the residents move around, so it’s been slow and then Covid-19 has obviously come along and made it even slower. The hospital also had to be closed down for eight-ten weeks during the first lockdown, as it’s a centre for elderly residents. Covid has certainly presented a lot of additional challenges and slowed things down but these are exceptional circumstances and they are impacting on everybody.”

Meanwhile, the €4.2m Clonakilty Community Hospital extension project comprises two phases. Phase One (Extension A) consists of a single-storey extension with new communal area while Extension B is a single-storey extension to the main hospital building consisting of 20 bedrooms, staff facilities, day rooms, treatment rooms, office utility areas, storage and visitor accommodation.

“We started the first phase in August and that’s a small 200 square metre extension with dining room and living rooms for patients. The main one started in October and is our largest project to date with the HSE – a 20-bed extension to the main hospital. We’re expecting it to take 14-16 months to complete. As this unit is in effect a complete new building and separate from the main building, we’ll be able to work independently to the main hospital.”

Since March, the coronavirus pandemic has been making it increasingly difficult to get projects over the line on time: “It certainly affects the progress of the work as it’s much slower getting materials and supplies. Normally, you would order everything two weeks in advance but it has to be ordered a minimum of four to six weeks in advance now,” Damian continues.

“We’re fine for concrete and blocks because we source those locally but for windows, for example, the turnaround time has gone out to six-eight weeks because of social distancing guidelines in the factory. Also, where you have mechanical and electrical supplies coming in from England, you need to be thinking further ahead.”

At the time of writing, Droumleigh Construction were just a matter of weeks away from completing their fourth Primary Care Centre in Cork – Bantry Primary Care Centre is a €4.6m, 3,500 square metre facility, which is scheduled for completion in November / December, while Castletownbere PCC – adjacent to the aforementioned Community Hospital – is 50% complete. Newmarket Primary Care Centre was finished in March of this year.

“Ardmanagh Horizons are the company behind those developments,” says Damian. “They did the first one in Schull eight years ago. I had very good relationships with a lot of the local doctors and I got in with them for that project and I’ve been working with them ever since. The second Primary Care Centre we did was in Charleville and that one has been up and running for five years.

“We’ve been predominantly doing commercial work for the past ten years and the HSE has been our main client, although the Primary Care Centres are separate in that the HSE advertises for a development in a particular location and they are then built privately and leased. There are also service level agreements on those for 20 years and we look after them as well, including all landscaping and the buildings have to be painted internally and externally every five years as well as repairing all damage.”

Droumleigh Construction generates direct employment for a vastly experienced and skilled team of ten alongside tried and trusted subcontractors who invariably meet the high standards Damian insists upon. “Kevin Johnston is our QS and he has been with me for ten years. He has tremendous knowledge of the HSE and all that work goes through him. A lot of the team have been with me long-term – Bríd in the office is here 20 years, for example. And of course we only use quality subcontractors who we can depend on.”

When he first established the business in the late ‘90s, Damian started off working predominantly on residential projects. “We were building 25 – 30 units during the boom,” he recalls. “Since the recession hit in 2007, however, we haven’t done any major residential work outside of a few small housing schemes for the County Council. We did a large job for the HSE on the hospital in Schull ten years ago and things have just developed from there. We’ve done some small refurb work in the hospital in Clonakilty as well and put in a new audiology unit at St Finbarr’s Hospital in the city four years ago.”

As a hands-on MD – and one with a strong carpentry background – Bantry Blues clubman Damian (who captained Cork to the 1994 All-Ireland U21 football championship) makes sure every aspect of every project is completed to the highest possible standard:

“I’m on site six days a week myself and I wear work clothes and steel-capped boots – not a suit,” he concludes. “I served my time as a carpenter with Murnane & O’Shea in Bantry and it’s definitely advantageous having that qualification as the finishing out of the hospitals and Primary Care Units is always completed to a very high standard. It’s important to get that right because that’s the calling card you leave behind each time.”

Droumleigh Construction Ltd.

Bridge Street,


County Cork.

Tel: 027 52822

Mobile: 086 2675341

Email: [email protected]

This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, March, Vol 7 No 3