Drinking in the euphoria – and not a drop of alcohol in sight

Monday, 3rd Oct, 2011

IT SAYS something about the appeal of this charismatic Irish team that so many people would abandon their Sunday morning sleep-in to watch a rugby match.

Rugby fans enjoying the Rugby World Cup

Rugby fans enjoying the Rugby World Cup match between Ireland and Italy at Kiely's pub in Donnybrook, Dublin, yesterday.Photograph: Eric Luke

By the time kick-off came around at 8.30am for Ireland’s final pool tie with Italy, there was standing room only in Kiely’s of Donnybrook, Dublin.

When it was first announced that the Rugby World Cup was going to be held in New Zealand, the collective groan from already hard-pressed Irish publicans could be heard from here to there.

The staging of matches, all of which were going to be over by the time the pubs were scheduled to open, could have been a lost opportunity for them and for the considerable number of sports fans who believe the communal atmosphere of the pub is the only place to watch a big match.

Such fears proved to be without foundation judging by the crowds that have flocked to Kiely’s and other pubs. The turnout confounded the idea that the only reason Irish people go the pub is to drink alcohol. No drink was served until official opening time which conveniently coincided with the end of the match.

Instead, the distinct aroma of coffee and fried bacon made it more like a cafe than a pub, while the number of children present created a family atmosphere.

Following a nervy first half, things got a whole lot easier after the break when the maestro himself Brian O’Driscoll scored the first try. As if anybody needed reminding of his qualities, a life-size representation of the Irish captain stood sentinel in the bar along with one of Paul O’Connell.

Local boy Jonny Sexton got a big cheer when he came on and all tension had evaporated from the game by the time Keith Earls had scored Ireland’s second try.

The crowd even managed a collective laugh when commentator Donal Lenihan said the Italians were capable of “passion and stupidity” in equal measure.

The sound of an announcer thanking people and reminding them that the pub will be open at the even more unearthly hour of 6am for Saturday’s quarter-final against Wales was somewhat drowned by Tommy Bowe’s second try-that-wasn’t.

For Bill Hopkins, the trip from Blessington with his wife Gale and two boys, Ben (9) and Zack (6), was worth it given the nature of the performance which he described as “super, super, super.

“We couldn’t wait to get here this morning. Ireland really did us proud. We’re looking forward to next weekend. We all get up early anyway, why not?”

Brian Hayes, who came from Blackrock, said he would “definitely” be back next week.

“I’ll be here at 5am,” he said. “It was brilliant. There is no reason to believe that we can’t win the whole thing and I think everybody else would say the same thing.”

Source: Ronan McGreevy, The Irish Times

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