From Croker to Coppers

IT’S a country favourite in the heart of the city, a GAA location miles from Croke Park. It’s a club that has hosted hundreds of All-Stars but never won a championship, a venue where the bitterest of county rivals come together.

We refer, of course, to Copper Face Jacks, now an integral part of the GAA weekend in the capital.

If you don’t know what we’re talking about chances are you’re still heading to Barry’s Hotel for the meat tea the evening of an All-Ireland final, but in the interests of clarity, Coppers is the number one party destination of hurling and football followers in the capital, the nightclub attached to the Jackson Court Hotel on the city’s southside.

If you’re young, free, single and up in Dublin for a big game, Coppers will draw you in like Cohan’s draws in Barry Fitzgerald’s pony during The Quiet Man: a well-worn path, familiar faces, a comforting milieu.

The music’s a lot better in Coppers than in Cohan’s, though.

“It’s funny,” says Darren Power, general manager of the nightclub in question. “We didn’t set out to corner the GAA supporter market or anything. It happened naturally.

“We noticed, over the years, that more and more people were coming in the night before and the night of big games, and that they were clearly up for the game and making a weekend of it.”

Well, that doesn’t explain the attraction. Why do people go halfway across the city from Croke Park to CFJ?

“That’s a fair point, you couldn’t say we’re convenient to the stadium,” says Power

“But people tend to head into town after the game anyway rather than staying out near Croke Park for the entire night. And once they’re in town at all, we’re not that far away.

“Plus, if you’re from outside Dublin and you’re staying up for the weekend of a game, staying on the floor or couch of some pal from home who lives in the city, we’re on a main route out of the city heading south.

“People heading out to Rathmines and so on would be heading past the door, so that could be another reason they end up here. But a big issue is the fact that people are comfortable here, simple as that. From the feedback we get it seems that people are comfortable meeting up here, and by meeting up, I mean meeting up — that if they get separated after the game or they want to swap tickets or whatever the night before, they know people from home will be in Coppers.

“They often say the atmosphere is like a disco at home as well, that’s another factor. Add it all up, people are relaxed here, and if they feel that way, obviously they’re going to be back time and again.”

Coppers takes a relaxed attitude when it comes to people wearing county jerseys on the dance floor, which is a simple but effective way of enticing people through its doors.

You need only consider the amount of sweat most supporters burden their jerseys with in the course of a long, hot Sunday in July or August to see the logic. How many readers have weighed up option a) the need to go home early in the evening and change in order to go on somewhere in Dublin or b) the need to stay out in the top they’re in and head for Coppers? How much consideration is really given to a)?

After all, at some point in the evening you may find yourself cheek by jowl with one of the men you were shouting for earlier that afternoon. “We often have the hurlers and footballers who’ve played in a big game coming in afterwards. Their reasons are the same as everybody else’s — if they can’t get through to friends or family on the mobile, chances are they’ll be in Coppers.

“We welcome them all, whether they’re celebrating or they’re down after a defeat. We see the two going on together, players from different sides having a chat and a drink.”

As the summer cranks into gear, the welcome on Harcourt Street is as warm as ever.

I don’t fancy the long queues, though. Any chance of a platinum members’ card just to smooth the passage? “Ha ha, good try.”

Throw in a meat tea and I’ll queue happily.

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