In Dublin 1, they’re hidden until you know them. For many working and socialising in Dublin city, life brings you into the labyrinth of side-streets and alleys off O’Connell Street less often than the corresponding maze off Grafton Street. Yet someone tells you about or brings you to a pub you’d never even heard of. You try it and a new world opens up.
A quiet Monday night introduced me to Brannigan’s on Cathedral Street. Eight of us arrived, ordered pints, found a table and colonised it in the pub’s decent sized room in which most space for patrons is along the walls. Its open plan works. You and the white shirted barmen and lounge staff know where everyone else is and what they’re doing, who is or isn’t looking at everyone else. The pints are good. The music and TVs are unimposing. This is exactly what you want for a drink following a film, a play, a course, a day or week’s work, or whatever else.
By the front door a rifle and a bison’s head hang on the wall. It wasn’t always the Bovidae animal family in this area. Cathedral Street used to be called Elephant Lane. About three hundred and fifty years ago Dublin’s first elephant lived there. It was brought across the river every day to Parliament Street, where people would pay to see it in a viewing booth. The viewing booth caught fire in 1681 and with it the animal. The owner sold its remains to Dublin’s Royal College of Surgeons, whose doctors undertook the first recorded anatomical study in Ireland or England of an elephant .
The draught beer choice is standard, includes Dublin Blonde, O’Hara’s Pale Ale and Nitro. On another visit here, those tucking into evening meals (served from 3pm until 9/9.30pm) such as burgers, hot roast beef sandwiches and Irish stew look pleased. From my perch at a small square table in the middle of the room the clientele look like they’ve popped in here before. Tourists, easy prey for the pubs on O’Connell Street located near hotels and coach stops, are few.
It’s only after my visit that I learn of another dimension to the pub: the GAA. Tommy Moore, a famous Kilkenny hurler after whom the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Club Championship is named, owned the pub from the 1930s to the 1970s. For decades the All-Ireland hurling champions (inter-county) stopped at Moore’s, as it was then known, on the start of the thirsty journey home. Many GAA fans pause here for a pint on a Croke Park Sunday.
Moore was chairman of Faugh’s GAA club in Dublin for decades and allowed the pub be used as a makeshift clubhouse. For anyone with associations with a GAA club of insufficient means or size to have its own clubhouse this detail brings a familiar image of a man determined to do what he could to bring people and their dreams together. Images of Summer Sundays and people sidling into Brannigan’s for a pre or post-match pint seem a fitting tribute to his memory.
Prices (30 October 2019)
Pint of Guinness: €5.00
Pint of lager: €5.40
Pint of ale: €5.00
330ml bottle of lager: €5.80
Measure of whiskey: €4.80
1/4 bottle of wine (187.5 ml): €5.90
Soft drink: €2.90
Bottle of water/fruit juice: €3.00
Soft drink: €2.90