10 best rugby pubs in Dublin
Rugby is a big deal in Dublin. It wasn’t always this way, but the winning ways of Irish rugby teams in recent years has seen support grow to something like a city-wide fanaticism, especially on game days.
Six Nations games are the biggest dates on the calendar, with the Autumn internationals now a close rival in terms of interest and support. Dublin is one of the most popular destinations for visiting fans - even those without tickets for the game – who come to make a weekend of it in the Irish capital. As a major force in the European Rugby Champions Cup, Leinster are also very well supported, especially in the latter stages of the competition, when they move from the RDS Arena to the larger Aviva Stadium. The excitement will be even greater in 2023, when Dublin hosts the final on May 19.
If you can’t get a ticket to see Ireland line out at the Aviva or Leinster at the RDS Arena, the good news is that you can join thousands of other fans in the same boat and cheer them on in a pub, where the atmosphere is good enough to make you forget you’re not actually at the game. Here are some of the best in the city.
Searsons, Baggot Street
Rugby is taken seriously in Searsons, with all Ireland and Leinster matches shown on big screens with surround sound. It’s a huge space, so there are plenty of good seats with a view of the TV, and they also have screens out in the beer garden. There’s a full menu of pub grub, so you can order a platter of chicken wings or a bacon cheeseburger to keep your strength up. Both the RDS and the Aviva are a 15-minute walk away, so there’s a bit of a post-match buzz in the pub as well.
The Swan, Aungier Street
There’s a long running rugby legacy in The Swan. Once owned by former Ireland international player Sean Lynch (and now run by his son), this Victorian pub is filled with memorabilia, from framed jerseys to the Lions cap from his 1971 victory against the All Blacks. Rugby heritage aside, it’s a lovely pub in which to watch a match, with a regular crowd of local aficionados cheering on their favourites.
The Bath, Bath Avenue
When you can’t get a ticket to the match, a pub right by the stadium is the next best thing. The Bath pub is just around the corner from the Aviva, so you can hear the roar from the crowd when you’re standing out in the courtyard. Large TV screens carry all the big games, but the real atmosphere comes when the final whistle blows, and the fans spill out of the stadium and many of them find their way here for a post-game pint.
Toner’s, Baggot Street
There’s always a raucous energy when the rugby is on in Toner’s, with fans crowded around the screens inside and out in the heated beer garden at the back. It’s also a popular spot with visiting teams – players from the Fiji and USA squads have called in for a pint when playing in Dublin. If you get peckish, you can bring in a pizza from Cirillo’s next door, cooked in an oven imported from Naples.
When it comes to rugby cred, The Blackrock takes some beating. The pub is co-owned by rugby legends Seán O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip, and the Kearney brothers, Rob and Dave (who also own The Bridge 1859 and Lemon & Duke). The lads have opted for a more sophisticated ambience than a straight-up sports bar: the brunch menu offers eggs benedict and French toast for earlier matches, then chowder, steaks and gorgeous roasts for afternoon throw-ins. And if the quality grub wasn’t enough, you can win big prizes during their match-day giveaways, including tickets to games.
The Old Stand, Exchequer Street
As you might expect from a pub named after a now-demolished stand at the old Landsdowne Road rugby ground (now the Aviva stadium), the Old Stand is a match-day favourite. It’s right in the heart of the city centre, so it draws both local supporters and visiting fans looking to make the most of their trip to Dublin. Watching sport can build up an appetite, so keep the menu handy: the club sandwich and fish and chips are good choices.
The Wool Shed, Parnell Street
At Australian sports bar the Wool Shed, all the big sporting events are shown on a giant screen, from Premier League football to Formula One. Rugby always gets top billing though, which might have something to do with the bar’s popularity with rugby-mad Aussies and Kiwis in the city. The screens are huge and there’s a lengthy menu of bar snacks, from buckets of chicken wings to platters of burger sliders.
Doheny & Nesbitt, Baggot Street
Always packed on match days, Doheny & Nesbitt’s devotion to the oval ball game borders on fanatical monotheism. No other sport can hold a candle to rugby here, where knowledgeable fans keep their eyes fixed on the screens and offer full-throated support to their heroes in Irish green and Leinster blue (and, when appropriate, Munster red). A fine collection of whiskies helps with celebrations, while the opening hours (9.30am on a Saturday) makes it a good spot for a hearty breakfast during those early morning games from the southern hemisphere.
The Hill, Ranelagh
With wrought iron fixtures over the bar, shelves filled with antique whiskey bottles and battered wooden floors, The Hill looks like a classic old pub. But on match days, rugby takes centre stage. There are several screens dotted throughout, so you have an unobstructed view from wherever you’re sitting. As well as all the usual names behind the bar, they have a great wine list and cocktail menu. They also serve decent coffee, if you need a pick-me-up between matches.
The Camden, Camden Street
If you want your rugby watching experience to feel like a real live action event, The Camden is the place to be. This cavernous, multi-level sports bar is home to Europe’s largest indoor Samsung 4k screen, with people gathering either right up front or on the surrounding balconies to watch. It can get pretty spirited, but if you’d prefer a quieter corner there are over 80 other screens throughout the venue. You can also reserve tables in advance, which is handy for the big games.
Dublin’s Cosiest Pubs
When you’d rather have a quiet pint than watch a match, there are plenty of cosy pubs in Dublin that fit the bill.