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A look back at the pub scene in town: Dick and Una's Years in Neptune

The Blackrock premises was a saviour for the late Dick Delany before Declan Muckian

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Dick Delany and Brendan Smyth during Italia 90

Dick Delany and Brendan Smyth during Italia 90

Owner, Declan Muckian outside The Neptune Bar

Owner, Declan Muckian outside The Neptune Bar

A photograph of the Blackrock/Haggardstown Local Defence Force from 1944 which is in the bar

A photograph of the Blackrock/Haggardstown Local Defence Force from 1944 which is in the bar

The Neptune Bar, photo from the 1990s

The Neptune Bar, photo from the 1990s

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Dick Delany and Brendan Smyth during Italia 90

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Deciding to buy a bar while having no experience in working behind one was a risk that Dick Delany decided he and his wife needed to take.

Having spent all his years working as an accountant, he found himself out of work, for a year and with a young family to look after, he took the plunge with wife Una (nee Coffey from Inchicore) and four children and bought the Neptune Bar in Blackrock and started an adventure that lasted 25 years.

Dick, a self taught accountant had been working solidly down through the years with the likes of CRV and was an accountant/MD for American companies like Weinberg and Steadfast, had cut the ties and found himself unemployed for the first time in his life. After nearly a year on the register he made an approach to the owner of the Neptune Bar in Blackrock Meta Casey and became the proud owner in March 1990.

The only problem was he had never worked behind the bar and was thrown in at the deep end when he opened the doors for the first time. However, Una's brother Sean Coffey from Inchicore was running The Capital Bar in the Dublin suburb, came down and gave him a crash course in the trade.

The bar had been previously owned by Meta and Hughie Casey who had successfully run it since 1986 and continued to do so until 1990 when Hughie passed away. Meta continued to trade for another year, but the pressures of work became too great and decided to make a break. Dick, who hailed from St. Malachys Villas, was a regular in the bar, heard on the grapevine that it was available and jumped at the chance of buy it.

Previously Hughie and Meta had taken ownership from Pat and Doreen Smith, an American couple who had come to Blackrock to retire and run the pub, but only stayed a very short period of time as they realised the pub lifestyle was a lot more difficult than they had anticipated and had solid it on to the Casey's. The Smith's had bought the premises from Sean and Rita Conlon who had been owners for a number of decades beforehand.

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An old photograph of the Neptune Bar and Main Street in Blackrock

An old photograph of the Neptune Bar and Main Street in Blackrock

An old photograph of the Neptune Bar and Main Street in Blackrock

The pub located on the corner of Main Street and Sandy Lane has been part of the makeup of Blackrock for years and has always been a favourite with the locals. Never one to rely on a passing trade, the pub has large following from the older clientele from the village and this continued when Dick and Una took over.

Although their evening and weekend trade were their busiest, in the early 90s the doors were open each morning at 11am to facilitate a number of gentlemen who visited for their bottle of Guinness and half one every day as part of their daily routine. Sitting in their favourite seats, they would discuss the events of the day and this routine continued until Dick eventually sold the pub. Over the years as the gentlemen eventually passed away, the area became known as the Departure Lounge and the plaque (made by Paddy Clavin) denoting this fact can still be found on the wall in the bar to this very day!

Down through the years sport became an integral part of the pub's culture and was the main stop off point for the likes of the Rock Celtic team and supporters. It also had a major affiliation with the Geraldines GFC and was recognised as the biggest seller of lottery tickets for the club between 2010 and 2015. Their support of the Louth team was also noted and in the run up to Leinster Final in 2010 where the team were cheated out of their win against Meath, the Neptune had run buses to all the previous knock out stages and had a bus full with all regulars and one Meath man (who was even allowed home on the same bus) at the ill fated final in Croke Park.

With a love for football and hurling, Dick had adopted the Waterford hurlers as his favourite team and during the season the bar was regularly packed on a Sunday afternoon to cheer on the games. The bulk of the crowds were made up of people who had settled in Blackrock who had affiliations to their home counties which led to great friendly rivalry and banter, no matter who were playing.

Even though the weekend nights were the busiest, Sundays always had the bar and lounge packed for the entire day. The morning trade between 12 and 2pm saw families drop in for a drink after mass. The licensing laws had the bar closed between 2pm and 4pm. This gave Dick and Una time to clean up the premises before the afternoon regulars arrived in for the Sunday game. Having to spruce up the pub, then head home for Sunday lunch before returning for the afternoon trade always proved extremely difficult for the couple. All this and raising their kids Frank, Steve, Derek and Val certainly took its toll on the couple who were involved with the pub seven days week.

Along with Christmas and Bank Holidays, one of their busiest days of the year was the Farmers Holiday August 15th when the pub was packed from early morning till very late at night. Agricultural workers came from as far afield as Cavan and Monaghan to spend the day drinking and singing. Bouncers were employed to control the numbers and the over enthusiastic drinkers who regularly arrived with musical instruments to create a session that lasted all day and late into the night which annually left carnage both in the pub and on the street outside afterwards.

On her return from a year travelling the world daughter Val found employment with the HSE, but still helped out behind the bar on weekends and whenever needed during the week. After a number of years she was asked if she wanted to take over the running of the Neptune and joked that if she did, the first person she would have to bar would be her dad for at least six months!

The next 13 years saw The Neptune continue its popularity with the locals and it became synonymous for its banter and singsongs, a tradition which has unfortunately been lost to it and many similar watering holes down through the years.

Although Dick tried unsuccessfully to sell the pub on occasion, the recession saw no takers to continue the tradition. But local man Declan Muckian approached him with an offer and in January 2016 he relinquished the reins of the Neptune after 25 years at the helm. Sadly Dick only enjoyed 14 months of retirement with Una and his family before his untimely death.

Mr. Muckian realised the true potential of the premises, that major renovations would only detract from the unique traditional style of the building and impede its character. So any refurbishments had to be more subtle, the bar counter was replaced, the lounge was opened up by bring into service an original door at the front of the premises (an entrance used by previous owners to bring in kegs etc.) and concentrating on the yard at the rear of the pub.

The entire yard was given a complete makeover with brand new flooring, large bench seating, an outdoor bar, stage for live music, the inclusion of disabled toilets and a canopy overhead to make it one of the best beer gardens in the village. This certainly proved extremely popular with a much younger demographic and has turned the Neptune bar into one of the 'in pub's to be seen in Blackrock ever since.

A comprehensive itinerary of live music both over the weekends and sporadic nights during the week has had the pub packed continually since its reopening in 2016 and this continued right the way up until the closure in March for the pandemic.

During the initial closure a brand new fully functioning stone built pizza oven was installed in the beer garden and this allowed it to reopen adhering to the social distancing guidelines allowing a one way movement through the pub.

Mr. Muckian said 'I feel the pub is a real jewel in the crown and is now a quintessential part of Blackrock. This pandemic has been very hard on the people employed in the hospitality trade, not only the owners but the often forgotten bar and floor staff working in the business. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them for their great work and wish them well in this uncertain time. I feel that we had all taken normality for granted, being boring and mundane. We can only look forward to some semblance of normality returning and the Neptune going back to being a place where people can enjoy their nights out.'


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