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Sunday 19 November 2017

Plenty of room at the inn as 'pilgrims' flock to city

Publicans cash in on Good Friday drinking

Munster supporters toast the lifting of the Good Friday drinking ban in Clohessy's bar in Limerick yesterday evening
Munster supporters toast the lifting of the Good Friday drinking ban in Clohessy's bar in Limerick yesterday evening

They came in their thousands by train, by bus, by car and by bike.

The bells that rang out across the city for afternoon church celebrations were observed with solemnity.

But by the time the second Angelus rang out yesterday evening, the pub pilgrimage was well and truly on.

After all the effort to get a Good Friday agreement for a special area exemption for pubs, it was more than worth it as tills clocked up massive tallies right from the 6pm breakaway from the traditional solemn curfew.

Churches across the city were packed for services in the mid-afternoon but, come 6pm, the worship was most definitely reserved for the pint of plain and the oval ball.

Thousands arrived on Shannonside.

Padraig O'Dea, originally from Templemore, Co Tipperary, and since relocated to Maynooth, Co Kildare, made the journey to the city with his friend Marty Corbett from Clane.

"I think fair play to the pubs -- laws should be separate from the church. The rest of the country should be allowed follow," Mr O'Dea told the Irish Independent.

Small rucks formed outside the doors of landmark pubs such as Clohessys on the quays, Nancy Blakes on Denmark Street and South's just off the Crescent.

Ahead of the lifting of the curfew, you got a sense that many revellers were more buoyed up by the novelty of Good Friday drinking rather than the right to celebrate a special sporting event.

For the bar owners, it mattered little as they capitalised bountifully on this very Good Friday.

As Dave Hickey beamed out from behind the counter of Souths: "It is a great occasion."

Enjoying an afternoon off, Fermoy butcher, Barry Fitzgerald was one of the first in the door of Souths.

"It's not Good Friday, it's a great Friday," he joked.

Jim Kelly from Blackrock, Dublin, and his wife Helen both agreed that the atmosphere in Limerick was electric.

"We have got a great welcome and the place is buzzing. What a day," Jim declared.

Down on O'Connell Street, despite not having a TV, Glen McLoughlin, proprietor of one of the city's oldest bars -- the White House -- was pulling pints as fast as he could.


"We don't have any Setanta, Sky, RTE or even TG4 here.

"This is a pub for stimulating conversation whether it be about Munster rugby or the economic affairs of Outer Mongolia and we are benefiting from this decision so I have no complaints," Mr McLoughlin said.

Denis Nestor from Rathkeale was on a tour of the city's pubs before the game.

"It's a well known fact that beer tastes a little sweeter when it's sacrilegious. It's like sweet honey pouring from the heavens," he laughed.

Indeed, the opportunity was seized on by all.

Across the river, on the way to Thomond Park, the Good Friday pilgrimage saw plenty of room at the inn for fans who couldn't get a ticket -- over 1,000 of them got the next best seat as they watched the game on giant 12ft screens in The Strand Hotel.

Closer up the road to Munster's rugby mecca, in Thomondgate, a group of happy Castleisland lads were having their thirst satisfied by proprietor Liz Radcliffe in Kinsellas pub.

"It's common sense that the pubs are open on day like this," Ivan Stuart said. "We've said our prayers and they are most definitely for Munster," he added.

Just yards from Thomond Park, monks from the Moyross friary were attempting to divert people to Stations of the Cross held in nearby churches.

Br Shawn O'Connor said the monks were there to promote the Catholic faith, but insisted this was not a protest on this special day of solemnity.

"We hope people will attend the Stations of the Cross in St Lelias or St Munchins church, he said.

"This is nothing unusual or a response to anything that is going on. It is the normal stuff that happens on Good Friday and we just want to promote that."

But the monks weren't having much luck.

Respectfully, John Browne from Malahide, Co Dublin side-stepped the monks as he made his way to the turnstiles.

"I hope Eoin Reddan has better luck directing our forwards around the pitch than the monks are having," he laughed.

So, the prayers were answered, as a city pretty much down on its luck got a very Good Friday -- though not a Munster victory.

Match report and analysis, see sport

Irish Independent

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