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First night in Ireland

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I am in the beginning stages of planning a first time trip to Ireland this coming May.
We are planning on flying into Shannon and renting a car. We will then have 7 days to explore before we meet friends in Portlaoise for two nights and then Dublin for three nights, flying home from Dublin.
I haven't quite figured out our driving itinerary, except we will plan on Kilkenny for the night before we meet our friends in Portlaoise.
Since we will be arriving in the morning after an over night flight, and then driving on the unfamiliar left side of the road, we are looking for a fairly close destination for our arrival day.
I would love some suggestions for a place to stay for that night, with intentions of visiting the CLiffs of Moher the next day. I am looking at Dromoland Castle Hotel as an option, Old Ground Hotel in Ennis as another. (very different price points).
If anyone has some other suggestions, I would love to hear them!

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