Some of you may recall a sports-based festival hosted by Bodytonic and Banter last March, which took place in the Twisted Pepper on Middle Abbey Street. Entitled The Back Page, the series of talks and events showcased many aspects of the sporting world, with a diverse panel of speakers. From discussing managerial skills with Brian Kerr, to the Rwandan cycling team’s resilient achievements, and from Paddy Power’s social media approach to the challenge of endurance swimming; there was something on the bill that would appeal to everyone. Following on from the success of the first Back Page festival, the gang began to look to bigger things for their second instalment– a 2,000 capacity, 3 day event in Croke Park with international sporting personalities in attendance. Now, we’ll never understand fully what happened in the interim, but somewhere along the way this 3 day event morphed into a permanent fixture, in the form of a sports-orientated pub in Dublin 7.
The term ‘sports bar’ for me triggers frightful images of 10ft walls made out of LCD screens, with match commentators barking over a deafening speaker, a venue with sticky floors and a pervasive stench of stale beer. Furthermore, my interest in sports is shallow at best, and only rears its vapid and ugly head in the form of passive patriotism for the odd rugby game or World Cup football match. However, The Back Page doesn’t discriminate between fair-weather fans or diehards, and it certainly does not reflect any of the aforementioned attributes of your bog standard sports bar. The premises are light and airy, with the skylights in the Dugout (which could also be known as the Pizza Parlour, depending where your allegiances lay) creating an atrium effect, as you watch fixtures on 4 screens spread throughout.
The Clubhouse is a cosier area focused more on tunes, chats and an extremely impressive selection of board games (if you donate a game, you will receive your first drink on the house). Upstairs in the Press Room you can play ping pong or foosball, or even book the space in advance for a private function. If there’s a certain sports fixture which you want to watch, simply ask at the bar and you shall receive – “as long as it’s good”, they claim. While city dwellers may balk at the distance, the reality is that it’s a mere 7 minute cycle from the top of O’Connell Street, and 100% worth the visit. I guess the best way to describe the chilled vibe at The Back Page is that by popping in for one on a Saturday afternoon you could in turn lose a whole day; eating pizza, having a few pints, becoming increasingly competitive at Happy Hippos, yet only realising the passing of time when the last orders’ lights begin to twinkle.