See it live
If you’re over for a Six Nations game, the spectacular Aviva Stadium will live long in the memory. This modern and atmospheric Lansdowne Road venue has enjoyed some significant history in its short time since re-opening in 2010, acting as the site of such classic encounters as Ireland’s victory over Australia in the November Test Series in 2014 and the heart-breaking last-gasp defeat to the All Blacks in 2013. The Ireland U20s and successful Women’s team regularly play on the same weekend of home games. Catching either of these matches would be a great addition to any trip.
The Aviva also got Leinster on the way to their Heineken Cup triumph in the 2010 -11 season, kicking the ultimately victorious campaign off with a thrilling win over a highly-rated Clermont Auvergne team. They also played their quarter final – against Leicester Tigers – and semi-final – overcoming Toulouse – here. Not to mention, the hard-fought 2013 Heineken Cup final between Toulon and Clermont Auvergne. The RDS Arena down the road in Donnybrook is Leinster’s usual home turf, where you can see the boys in blue take on some of the best PRO 12 teams, or experience the electric atmosphere when rivals Munster are in town.
Eat and drink
The Bridge 1859 in Ballsbridge is a great place to get a pint and some good food near both the Aviva and the RDS. Try their fresh unpasteurised tank beer, which has a shelf-life of just three weeks from leaving the brewery, meaning you’re guaranteed a pint that’s fresher than fresh. What’s more, the pub boasts serious rugby pedigree thanks to its owners; Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip and brothers Rob and Dave Kearney. It gets pretty busy, especially on Fridays, but keep your eyes peeled and you might be lucky enough to get a pint served by one of the lads!
Also close to the Aviva Stadium is The Bath (co-owned by retired international Brian O’Malley, who also owns Sam’s Bar on Dawson Street), a friendly rugby fan haunt that regularly welcomes a scrum of punters when it’s game time. Meanwhile, just up the road The Old Spot has a welcoming, sophisticated ambience about the place, with select craft beers and cocktails. Wherever you go, there will be friendly banter with groups of singing fans warming their voices before cheering on their club or country.
Closer to the city centre, you’ll find South William Street’s Bear; a meat lover’s paradise co-owned by Ireland international No.8 Jamie Heaslip. Serving more unusual cuts of meat – like onglet, Pope's eye, rosary cut, bavette, London broil and flank, alongside traditional steaks – many dishes are slow-cooked or made to share. Bring a big appetite.
Meanwhile, the Kearney brothers have been known to pop along for brunch in The Butcher Grill in Ranelagh, a short Luas ride from St Stephen’s Green. Again, this is definitely favoured by carnivores, although there are seafood options on the menu too. The restaurant’s speciality is beef, and its wood-smoked grill does its meat justice. Popular cocktails include a Bourbon Old Fashioned with candied bacon and the Grilled Cosmopolitan. Yes, even the cocktails are grilled.
For one of the best Sunday roasts in the city, try the Exchequer Bar on Exchequer Street. So well-loved are these roasts that booking in advance is necessary. It’s a straight-forward affair but a well-executed one; roast chicken or beef, or rack of pork with stuffing, veg, mashed potato and gravy. Retired Ireland international Gordon D’Arcy is involved in the bar, alongside his childhood friends.
Things to do
On international game days, why not soak in the atmosphere by taking a walk through St Stephen’s Green? It’s not uncommon to see some of the players practicing here in the lead up to a game before returning to the Shelbourne Hotel – the team’s base on game days. This is where you can get caught up in the excitement by joining the crowds of Irish fans pumping up the team with a guard of honour as they leave the hotel for the stadium.
As kick off approaches, a walk through Herbert Park on the way to the Aviva Stadium is the ideal pre-game calm before the storm. From here, follow the River Dodder right up to the door of the Aviva Stadium where you can take in the sights and sounds of Ballsbridge while enjoying the occasion of both sets of fans swarming the streets.
If you’ve got a gang travelling for a game, keep the adrenaline going by taking advantage of Dublin’s natural playground! Make a splash wakeboarding at Gand Canal Dock or see Dublin from a completely different angle by kayaking on the Liffey River. If you want a break from the city take a quick trip on the DART to see what adventure lies in Dublin Bay or you can always climb higher than O’ Connell in a line out and head to the Dublin Mountains for a Zipit Forest Adventure. It’s almost as intense as facing down the Irish team on the pitch. Almost…
Main image via Irish Independent
The Butcher Grill image via The Butcher Grill
The Bath image via Publin