With Bobinho still very jet lagged from his recent travels with USYNT in England, I offered to share the workload this week and contribute to our Shaky Stool segment this week. Never have really been out in Philly for a game before sadly enough, I woke up Tuesday morning to the crashing of the big rigs in the many potholes on Christian street carrying steel towards one of the many new skyscrapers being assembled in the city with a goal in mind. Names of bars have been thrown out as great places to catch games in the city but I wanted to get some real recommendations before the 2:45 kickoff of an absolutely mouthwatering day of footy. A quick twitter assault on the major Philly soccer personalities lead to me to decide on Tir Na Nog as my afternoon destination. After a few morning errands and a bite to eat I pulled my old mountain bike from its basement hibernation and took off down South Street towards City Hall in what I hoped would be an unreal afternoon of Champions League Football.
After a very miserable bike ride through the wind and the rain I racked my bike on 16th street and entered the Irish Pub. Once you walk in you immediately get an excellent vibe from the stellar wooden frame work of the bar and the surrounding stools and tables. The bar has an excellent amount of TVs and a projector, which makes any seat in the establishment a good spot for a view of whatever match you may request to be on the television. I walked up to the bar still soaking wet and planted myself on a shaky stool between to men in suites enjoying a meal and a beer. It was 2:30 by now so I assumed anyone at the bar was interested in the matches. With Barcelona taking on Arsenal and Juventus v Bayern on tap for today, I was hoping the inner excitement I had for the match was matched by the fellow attendees in the afternoon. I noticed the South Jersey based Flying Fish Pale Ale was on special as I walked in which made my order easy as I have heard great things about the Cherry Hill based brewery. I started to sip the Pale Ale special as the feeling my stomach began to turn with anticipation for the upcoming display of some of the world's best.
To my surprise the excitement I had for the game was shared with the man in the suite next to me. As soon as I sat down, the businessman named Mike next to me gave me a quick nudge and asked in thick South Philly accent if I had any interest in the game. Shocked by a rare display of brotherly love by the gentlemen I immediately started to chat in between sips of the Flying Fish about his introduction into soccer and his recently found love affair with North London’s Arsenal. I spoke about the my bike ride up to see the match today, Mike responded with a quick, “Might be rainy out there, but it’s sunny in here” after a quick sip of my drink the atmosphere had been set for me by my friendly compatriot. It’s always very interesting to talk with soccer fans who have never really played the sport, but have grown to love it. The US is full of middle aged adults who are now starting to understand the world’s love affair with the game, and Mike’s knowledge of the game and of his favored Gunners was truly impressive for someone admittedly very new to the game.
As the match began the pints continued to come from the excellent bar staff, I sank right into my seat, being mesmerized by the quality being displayed by a very good Arsenal side and a seemingly flawless Barcelona. A surreal display of tactics and individual brilliance was on display for the world to see and I began to realize how lucky I was to be able to watch the game live in the middle of the day, in a spectacular bar, surrounded by fellow lovers of the game. With the Bayern-Juve match on the TV on the opposite wall, my head was on a swivel for the majority of the second half as the old lady fought back to earn a draw against the German giants in Turin. Arsenal was predictably punished for its lack of quality in front of net finally by Messi and a late penalty sealed the match for the traveling men from Catalonia.
I looked around at the end of the match and noticed the bar was nearly full, with a few Italian gentlemen interested in the Juve match and a few Barcelona kits, it was great to see the rush hour crowd of soccer supporters fill in to catch a few minutes of the match. As the match ended I said my goodbyes to the bartenders and staff who were extremely friendly and I took off towards my home through the packed streets of Center City and Rittenhouse Square. Tir Na Nog supplied a brilliant atmosphere for an unforgettable afternoon of Champions League football. Even for a mid week match up kicking off during most people’s workday, there were still plenty of onlookers supply a great soccer environment. The staff were brilliant and were ready to fulfill any needs the customers may have had. The beer selection was top draw as well, I stuck to the South Jersey based Flying Fish Pale brew today, but the selection of Dogfish Head, Troegs, and Yards along with the corporate classics made for an interesting internal debate when looking at the drink menu. I would highly recommend checking the pub out if you are ever in Center City Philadelphia and are looking to catch a match. For me I will surely be back to check out the weekend crowd sooner or later as the matches become more and more important in the EPL in the next few weeks.