Yes, we’re back in Phibsborough again. I promise we will visit other parts of Dublin, but hey, I like convenience, and, as of this writing, am badly jet-lagged for nerd reasons. This week’s pub: The Back Page.
In my home country, I have an aversion to most sports bars; they tend to blare sports I don’t watch, to a largely That Kind of Dude crowd, and frequently have terrible beer. There are, of course, some exceptions to this – there are many excellent soccer pubs all over the US and Canada, and those tend to be a little more my scene: first off, they focus on a sport I actually follow, they tend to have a better beer selection, and are (often) more generally welcoming.
That said, I have also lived various places where the local soccer/football pub was one to be actively avoided; when I moved to East Ham in the 1990s, my brief sole visit to my closest pub, The Hammers, was enough to put me off West Ham for life, and I never made the mistake of crossing their threshold (or, indeed, going outside on game days) ever again – instead, it was the ‘Spoons that was a longer walk away for a safe pint for me.
But soccer (and it is frequently/possibly more often ‘soccer’ vs ‘football’ here in Ireland) in Dublin is a very different beast. League of Ireland teams don’t have anything like the deep pockets their counterparts in the UK (or, for that, Germany, Italy, Spain or even the US) have, and it means that they simply don’t have the same level of awareness; most of the kids in my 8-year-old’s class have a favourite Premiere League or La Liga player, but they would be hard-pressed to pick a local hero – and many of these kids, mine included, actually play for various local teams’ youth sides. But that is a reason I love going to The Back Page – they support Irish soccer, especially at the hyperlocal level – and it’s not just the men’s teams. Best of all, you can nerd out over all things soccer over a good pint – there’s nearly always a fresh Scraggy Bay or other Irish craft option or two on – there was a new-to-me beer from Hopfully on my last visit.
One of my favourite activities at The Back Page has been their series of soccer history/book club talks in their upstairs bar. I’ve learned so much from the guest speakers, not just about our own local team (c’mon Bohs!), but about the surprisingly complicated history of professional sport in Ireland in general. And, as mentioned, it’s been a fantastic spot to catch women’s soccer games, so I know we’ll be spending some quality time there during the Women’s World Cup this summer.
But it’s not just for footy fans – while all manner of sport is catered for, it’s equally possible to just swing by for a quick pint, borrow a board game, get into a ping-pong tournament or look at a book from The Back Page Book Club – and if you bring in a sporty title for the pub, you get a free pint.
The mural of Mrs Doyle on the outer wall gives you a great sense of what’s on inside: a sporty, but not sport-exclusive welcome, a good sense of humour, and some real local spirit. I always enjoy stopping in for a pint.
Where: The Back Page, 199 Phibsborough Rd, Phibsborough, Dublin 7, D07 A0X2
Access from the city centre: Buses 4, 9, 46A, 140, 155, Luas Green Line, 25ish minute walk
Food: Excellent pizzas, flatbreads & now, chicken
Sport: Yes, all of it: Premiere League, League of Ireland, Six Nations, F1, etc…
Music: Usually top ’90s tunes; also karaoke (in a separate room) – you have been warned
Family-friendliness: Can get crowded on big game days, but fine during the usual hours
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Doyle’s Corner, The Boh, The Hut & The Bald Eagle are all within a short walk; a few others closer to the Luas
Local sites of note: Dalymount Park, Mater Hospital, Blessington Street Basin, Mountjoy Prison, TUD Grangegorman
Haunted: No obvious signs
Other notes: I need to do a better job of checking for the only North American sport I really enjoy – ice hockey