Looking back on it now, with the gift of hindsight, and decent software that chronologically catalogued all the photos from the year, I can see that we were fitting a lot into that summer.
Big weekends like the one in question weren’t as abnormal as they’ve admittedly become. The body and the circumstances were better equipped for an action-packed Thursday to Sunday extravaganza with a full itinerary of very late finishes. It was at the tail end of one of these glorious weekends that I would first cross the threshold of Leonard’s Corner.
It was a Sunday, nay – it was the Sunday. World Cup Final Sunday, and we were away to deepest darkest South Dublin to watch the fixture in a friend’s house. Yours truly was barely upright and still contending with the Charlie’s that had been consumed when the sun had already started to come up, a mere couple of hours prior.
Having marginally survived the journey across the city, I located the nearest licensed outlet and immediately realized that, alike the 11 Croatians that were to be shortly lining out against France in Moscow, I was going to have to play this one tactically.
Cans of stout would not be on the bill of fare for that afternoon. Nor was lager or any other such widely available beer that was for sale in the supermarket I’d found myself in. I had almost settled on cider, when, for some reason at that particular moment, it was obvious that several different variants of cheap sparkling wine were the necessary tonic required for reviving my ailing soul.
A couple of hours later and things had improved exponentially. Now cured about three times over and with a few quid of French Sweepstakes money in the back pocket, I found myself in tow with some friends as we crawled our way out of Harold’s Cross and towards Clanbrassil Street. Naturally, it wasn’t long before we arrive at Leonard’s Corner.
Leonard’s Corner, situated on… Leonard’s Corner is one of a unique set of intersections in Dublin that derive their name from a business that was once (or may still be) situated there. Though its name is in harmony with the name of the intersection now, the pub did go through a few different names in its past, previously bearing the name Carrs.
It seems that the original Leonard was a Mr Francis Leonard, who owned the building in the latter half of the 19th Century. And even though this 1894 edition of The Belfast Newsletter shows that he put it up for sale in that same year, the intersection still bears his name more than a century later.
Leonard’s Corner, the pub that is, is a traditional looking pub; L-shaped, due to the placement of the bar and its being on a corner, we found it somewhat dimly lit to an agreeable level on this first visit. On that occasion, having ordered a round and happily sat down at one of the low tables, we – being a bit boisterous with the day that was in it- found ourselves on the bad side of one of the barmen.
Were we merry from the day? Yes.
Were we of any harm to others? Absolutely not.
Were we too loud? Almost definitely.
By pint number two, that barman had asked us to quieten down a few times. And in lieu of pint number three, we decided that we probably were ruining the ambience and opted to leave.
When I next set foot in Leonard’s Corner, it was on the occasion of wanting a few pints prior to a Mary Wallopers show in the nearby National Stadium. To those unaware, The Mary Wallopers are what I would term a sort of nouveau Clancy Brothers – rollicking balladeers from Dundalk who have a fanbase as thirsty as their repertoire of liquor-laden folksongs. Unfortunately, for our friends in Leonard’s Corner, they were aware of none of this – the Mary Wallopers, their fans, or their concert didn’t exist as far as they were concerned. That is until they did.
The Mary Wallopers croud surfing in Limerick on NYE, go to see them if you get the chance. pic.twitter.com/bl4H2Mow8x
— Dáithí K (@tvcritics) January 15, 2023
I’m sorry to say that I’m capable of being a petty, petty man. And I know this because of the sense of satisfaction I found in watching that same said barman – the one that had been so vexed with us those four years prior – as he battled against the unexpected hordes, five deep – on the far side of the bar that he tended. I’m sorry to tell you, reader, that I couldn’t shift that feeling of cosmic equilibrium as I gazed into the eyes of that man and saw that he was like a fox in the headlights, timidly asking another customer – ‘what time do them doors open up there’.
I keep telling people to enjoy bartenders like this while they last, though. The old-school career bartender is becoming a rarer thing in the modern world. This man and his colleagues excelled themselves on that particular night – professionalism defined. They got everyone served in good time and dealt with a swell that would have engulfed the less experienced. And of course, the man was right and proper to throw us a bit of ire on that Sunday in 2018, we’d expect no less from the bartenders in our own local, were a messy group of outsiders to descend upon it on a relaxing Sunday night.
I suppose we’ve only proven, in writing about our only two visits to Leonard’s, that we’ve never actually been there under normal circumstances. So, we’re definitely not the best arbiters of what it’s actually really like on a day-to-day basis. Then again, maybe we are – those two visits told us everything we need to know about the place and that is that it’s in great hands. I definitely have a grá for the place as a result of those two visits – and I can’t wait to get back there again.