Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My Top Ten Sport-Watching Pubs Ever In The World Ever

The Guardian had a feature in its travel section yesterday which claimed to classify the Top Ten Bars of the World. Studies of this kind tend to either robustly objective and painstakingly collated, or entirely and brazenly subjective. This one is the latter, being the opinion of the newspaper’s deputy travel editor, Isabel Choat.

I am presuming Ms Choat has never supped stout in the Waxie Dargle just off Parnell Square, and question therefore the breadth of her knowledge on the subject. But I was still surprised not to find any Dublin pub honoured, considering this to be akin to finding a top ten of pizzerias bereft of Italian-based establishments.

Anyway, while thinking of pubs - a most agreeable pastime of an afternoon - I decided to publish my Top Ten Pubs For Watching Sport In, a hopefully useful – but, like the Guardian’s, entirely subjective - reference guide for those caught short two minutes before kick off. Most of these are Dublin hostelries, given that that is where I live, so please feel free to suggest your own favourite Big-Screen Valhalla.

1. Sharkey’s Bar, Annagry, Co.Donegal.
A nostalgic choice. The venue in which I earned my pub football stripes, back in the 1990s as the Sky Sports pub-sub-culture took root. Initially accompanied by Coke and Tayto crisps, Old Firm matches in Sharkey’s were washed down with some of my earliest pints. No obscurantist pillars, clear views from all over the pub, a goodly-sized screen in the corner of the lounge, beside the window through which you would watch the tide coming in. Watched Celtic’s 6-2 win over Rangers there a few days before leaving for a year in Australia. Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?

2.McDaid’s, Harry St.
The factors considered in assigning places to pubs on this list include ambience and swill-quality as well as the conduciveness inherent to watching sport therein. McDaid’s houses a single, humbly dimensioned screen above the door, but the atmosphere and the magisterial nature of the pint it offers make it a sure-fire winner - no matter what the score! (as it could be marketed, were it not unrequiring of the input of advertising industry dullards).

3.Gleeson’s, Booterstown
An unlikely gem. Hidden away on Booterstown Avenue, with a warm, middle-aged glow, this was the pleasant venue for a recent Champions League viewing. Sizeable, without being vulgar, a rear-drawing room affair housed an ideally proportioned plasma wonder, which hung above a roaring fire. Fetching lounge-girls buzzed helpfully around to administer to your refuelling needs. Comfort and atmosphere non pareil.

4.Koln Kolsch Brauerei
Kölsch, the local brew found in Köln, Germany, is served in small glasses and best quaffed in many of the brewery establishments around the city. This one I visited during the World Cup is near the Domplatz. Therein the gruffest of waiters bring you Kölsch – and only Kölsch; do not, like a friend of mine did, ask for some preposterous Weissbier or other, lest ye face the most withering of stares, before being given what you actually wanted - which was, of course, Kölsch. Sausage is served by the meter here, and the World Cup group games could be viewed on a huge screen as you washed the schweinfleisch down until stomach acid ran out your nostrils. Vier Kölsch?

5.Doheny & Nesbitt’s, Baggot St.
A Dublin institution, the main bar has a television located conveniently above the barman’s shoulder, so that you may not miss a kick as you shout your order. At most, taking your eyes off the game for the duration of a throw-in stoppage should be time enough to make the all-important eye contact with the stout yeoman of the bar and communicate your poison. I foresee this being a popular spot among southside Croker-boycotters aiming to maintain the spiritual heartland when the rugby internationals head to the odd-numbered postcodes next year.

6.The Lotts, Lotts, Dublin 1
This pub is split into two parts: the café-bar-urban-lounge-jazz-funk-chicken-teriyaki ‘lounge’, and a nice, traditional-feeling bar. Treats its footy with respect, which means Match of the Day on even amidst the madness of a Dublin Saturday night. Gets in also because of those occasions on which you are dragged into town shopping of a Saturday afternoon, and can contrive to walk past The Lotts, into which you can peer and catch the latest scores off Gillette Soccer Saturday.

7.McGrath’s, Drumcondra
A popular option for Croker match day drinking, it does not immediately present itself for its sport-watching qualities. But, of a quiet evening, sitting in the raised area towards the back which houses several comfy sofas feels like being in your own living room, just with a bar and a better telly.

8. O’Neill’s, Suffolk St.
Never mind the quality, feel the girth. Wade your way through bus-loads of American pensioners carrying trays of soup, blathering “What is this, Saccer? Is this Saccer? Is this Irish Saccer?”, and make your way to a stool at the upstairs bar, to enjoy a holy trinity of convenient bar access, a short hop to the toilet and, for a select few stools, excellent sight-lines. Once they turn the sound up, the Literary Pub Crawl crowd will clear. Of a bleary Sunday afternoon, a faceful of steaming carvery will centre you for the game.

9.Chaplin’s, Hawkins St.
This venue gets in because of convenience on two fronts. Located near O’Connell Bridge, it seems always to be the easiest place to meet people when in town. Also, being a charming, cosy affair, and rarely busy, one’s access to the bar is generally lethally swift. Find yourself a stool at the bar; turn to your right to view the game on one of the shimmering, plasmic fellows on the wall, and a mere raising of an eyebrow refills your glass.

10.Fitzsimon’s, Temple Bar.
A horrendous pub. Really, really bad – I would not recommend going for a pint here in a million years. But what it lacks for in charm, affordability, taste, clientele, it makes up for by having a staggeringly big screen – like, the size of the wall, and a sort of raised area at the back which acts as a good viewing platform when busy. I watched France v Spain in the 2000 European Championships here, and, surrounded by partisans from either nation, it felt a little like being there, or somewhere that is not normally a tiresome Temple Bar fleshpot.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

the Harp bar, 118 Boulevard Clichy in Paris is how a pub would look if I could customise it.

and you can find it "by accident" while bringing the missus on a romantic walk round Montmartre

5:39 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TSA - this has the makings of a good book.

Off the top of my head, Dublin wise:

Punchbowl - Booterstown
Eagle House - Glasthule
Bleeding Horse - South Circular
many more I am sure

Co Clare bar - Milwaukee WI
Shark Bar - Sydney (how did TSA leave that out?)
Formally O'Dwyers - Freiburg, Germany (best atmorsphere watching a game I have ever experienced - Eng v Arg 1998 World Cup)
Trafford Arms - Manchester

1:05 p.m.  

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