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One year since the pubs closed | 'Come back and support us'

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

16:11 16 Mar 2021

As pubs mark the unwanted milestone of a year since they closed their doors, we heard from some of the nation's best-known publicans about their lives behind the bar.

The locals of Ireland have countless stories of fun, laughter, and local history, none more so than John B. Keane's in Listowel.

Proprietor Billy Keane told us about a current Ireland sporting superstar that spent his non-playing days behind the bar.

Johnny Sexton: mid-rate barman

"He worked here in the pub," said Keane of his godson, Jonathan Sexton.

"He was very good at drinking bottles of orange and eating crisps rather than the working side of it. But he said to me 'Billy, when I play for Ireland can I put my jersey up in the bar?'

"He denies that and that he said 'if' he played for Ireland... but he did say 'when'. He was trying to be modest. I said 'of course you can.'

"He played against Fiji in the RDS and scored 18/19 points and played well - he came into the pub and he said 'I have something for you' and he gave me the jersey. Little did we think that he would be heading for cap 99 next week against the English.

"His nanna, Brenda, and his dad Jerry live in Listowel. As we say here, we're four doors down from each other. The Brogans would be three doors from the Sextons, so Dublin would have won nothing. Leinster would have won nothing - without this street.

"He used to come down here and he'd play out the back of the pub. We'd all be delighted when he went back to Dublin because he'd be up at 7 in the morning with unbelievable energy, banging the ball against the back door!"

Shane Lowry & The Boar's Head

Hugh Hourican, the owner of The Boar's Head on Capel Street in Dublin, regaled us of the time Shane Lowry celebrated his Open win in the pub.

"In 2014, on the Monday, Kerry were after winning. Shane Lowry was down there on the Monday, he was after winning something in Europe.

"There was a great gang between the Ó Sés, Eoin Brosnan, a clatter of the lads. Shane was there and there was a great bit of craic.

"Shane turns round to me and says 'I promise you that I'll be here on the Monday when I win my first Major. So everyone remembers last July, that Sunday night afterwards I dropped him a text to say 'congratulations lad'.

"He messaged straight back saying 'see you tomorrow, as promised.' So the Monday afternoon, I looked out the door and there was Shane walking up Capel Street with the Claret Jug hanging out of his hands like it was a sod of turf!

"He walked in and he said 'I'll be back with another one', so we're all hoping that when we reopen that he'll be walking in with the green jacket the next day!"

'Come back and support pubs'

Billy Keane spoke about the beauty of the local pub.

"This is a Parliament. Our pubs are parliaments. Fellas or women might not get a word in at home, but when they pay the price of the pint here, that is their speech. They are the Ceann Comhairle in their local pub.

"We have something special and we should never ever belittle ourselves or let people denigrate us or say that we're not providing a fantastic service. There are good ones and bad ones. It is something to be proud of.

"Looking back over the years, you'd maybe say 'that was a great night' and you'll look back and say 'I didn't do too badly there now in that little pub on the side of the street.'

"I'm a bit emotional today because I'm here in the pub and the ghosts are flying around. We lived upstairs, you could hear the music and the talk growing up. I could sleep on top of a train because we had it going on right on top of our heads but we had to go to sleep at 8 o'clock like all the other kids.

"But it's home and the ghosts of John B's past here are here and long may we continue.

"I hope that people come back to us and support us, we have had a very bad year. It is going to take a few good ones to come back."

On 15th March last year, 8,000 pubs across Ireland closed their doors.

The year anniversary of Covid will be marked with eerily silent pubs on what should be one of the busiest trading weeks.

As we mark one year since pubs closed, this week on Off The Ball, in association with Guinness, we will celebrate the people and the stories that make our nation’s pubs great, as we look forward to their reopening. 

Guinness Raising the Bar – drink responsibly. visitdrinkaware.ie

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