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Ireland by playing cards - The perfect antidote to missing Galway and the pub

By Sarah Finnan

May 7, 2020 at 11:41am

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Ireland by playing cards: The pocket-sized memento that will tide you over until your next trip to Galway.

It's no secret I'm missing Galway something terrible. In fact, I wrote an article about 10 simple Galway pleasures I'm missing and doing so left me a big nostalgic mess dreaming about my next jaunt down Shop Street.

But with the country still in lockdown and the knowledge that road trips and pints outside Tigh Neachtain are still a ways off, I've resigned myself to the fact that I'll have to find other ways to pretend I'm living my best life in the City of Tribes - and having recently stumbled upon Ireland by playing cards (@irelandbyplayingcards),  I think I've found a creative solution to tide me over until then.

An Instagram account dedicated to travelling Ireland (and the wider world) according to a pack of travel cards, the lads - in their words - "pick a card and head off to find the location"... their most recent adventure taking them to Galway. However, only nine pubs into the deck, lockdown came along and rained on their parade, putting things on hold indefinitely.

Major bummer, I think you'll agree. But while they may not be able to finish up their pub crawl of Galway for another while yet, having a pocket-sized memento of the city's best haunts certainly helps to keep the homesickness at bay until such time they can return.

Have a look at some of their tribute to Galway's pubs and get excited for your own grand return out west (video taken during lockdown but all within a 2km radius). As the song lyrics say: "We'll meet again. Don't know where, don't know when. But I know we'll meet again some sunny day."

And here are a few of their pre-quarantine pics for good measure.

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One of our favourite playing cards so far, today we re-created Liam Blake's 30 year old photo of McSwiggan's Pub (Galway City) with the 2 original men in the picture. The premises has been used as a pub since the early 1900's, and was built on the site of an old coach building forge (some remnants of which are inside). McSwiggan's Pub and the Restaurant upstairs opened in the mid 1980's. The front has changed over the years, the old Guinness posters have gone and some of the front doorways have been widened. Originally we asked a friend to sit in for our photo with his bodhrán, but he looked at the picture and told us he'd go one better and get us the original musician who he knew well, Niall McQuaid - originally from Scotland he plays in Tig Choili every Monday night. Niall was happy to sit in for our playing card photo, and told us the other man in the picture was Tom Kenny, of Kenny's Bookshop and Gallery (who this year are celebrating 80 years in business). We dropped into Kenny's bookshop that week and arranged for us all to meet at McSwiggan's to re-create the picture! In between the rain and wind of Storm Ciara we met downstairs in McSwiggan's, Niall brought along the bodhrán from the original picture. Tom was a great storyteller and told us how he was a friend of photographer Liam Blake, who 30 years ago had visited Kenny's Bookshop (then on Galway's High Street), and asked him to stand in for the original photo. Niall had been outside the shop busking and was asked to join them. Getting ready for the picture Tom didn't have a suitable jacket to wear, so they borrowed one from Sonny Molloy. To re-create our playing card, Joe behind the bar kindly brought out an empty keg for Niall to sit on and gave Tom a pint to hold. As Tom was heading off shortly after, he left the pint for Niall to drink which funnily enough he'd done the same thing 30 years ago. A big thanks to Tom & Niall, and Joe from McSwiggan's for helping us recreate these pictures and for a very enjoyable afternoon. #52irishpubs #galwaypubs #galwaytourism #woodquaygalway #liamblake #thisisgalway #lovegalway #irelandbyplayingcard #playingcards #bodhranplayer #galwayguinness

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Eyre Square in Galway City, named after Edward Eyre, Galway Mayor of 1710-1711 (also known as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park). One of the many landmarks in the square is the Galway Hooker sculpture & fountain, created by artist Éamonn O'Doherty (1939-2011) to represent the iconic Galway Hooker boats. The monument was erected in 1984 to mark the quincentennary of Galway being awarded Mayoral status in 1484. #eyresquare #galwayhookermonument #eyresquareshoppingcentre #johnfkennedymemorial #galwaycity #galwaylandmark #galwaymonuments #thisisgalway #latinquartergalway #lovegalway #visitgalway #galwaytourism #galwayhookerboats #playingcards #wildatlanticway #irelandbyplayingcard #staylocal

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Galway Cathedral (or Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas). Built on the site of the old Galway Gaol which was demolished in 1941. Construction started on the Cathedral in 1958 and was completed in 1965. Designed by architect John J. Robinson, the building is the last great stone Cathedral to be built in Europe. One of Galway's most iconic and beautiful landmarks. We've included a few of our pictures from over the years and seasons. Playing card from a modern deck available in most souvenir shops, produced by Shamrock Gifts. 🍁🌱🌞❄🕯 #galwaylandmark #galwaycathedral #thisisgalway #wildatlanticway #galwaycity #lovegalway #visitgalway #latinquartergalway #wildatlanticwaygalway #irishcathedral #irelandbyplayingcard #playingcards #staylocal

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Three iconic local shops on Galway's Quay Street. Be sure to support the many local businesses when they reopen after this time of crisis. This row of buildings dates back as far as 1580. 'Wooden Heart' offers beautiful wooden children's toys and gifts. 'Twice as Nice' is a treasure trove of new and antique jewellery and clothing. 'Riordan's Cafe' offers homely Irish meals and breakfasts and its exterior is decorated with portraits of Samuel Becket, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce and Pádraic Ó Conaire. You can also build your own models of the shops on Quay Street supplied by Tiny Ireland. 🏘 #irelandbyplayingcard #playingcards #quaystreet #quaystreetgalway #woodenheart #twiceasnice #riordanscafe #latinquartergalway #thisisgalway #galwaytourism #keepitlocal #staylocal #tinyireland

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Up the impressive Sky Road in Clifden, Co. Galway. A stop at the John D'Arcy Monument which boasts a spectacular view over Clifden town and the Twelve Bens. John D'Arcy founded the town back in the early 1800s. This is our third stop here for a playing card 🃏🌄, though the path to the monument has since become a bit of an ankle deep muddy trek. Further round the Sky Road we stopped off to walk down to Clifden Castle - our first time to visit the ruins. The Castle was built in 1818 and was the home of John D'Arcy. #irelandbyplayingcard #johnhinde #playingcards #visitconnemara #loveconnemara #goconnemara #clifdentown #wildatlanticway #clifden #skyroad #coastalroute #johndarcy #twelvebens #connemaranationalpark #visitgalway #tourismgalway

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We were delighted to finally have a playing card for one of our own long standing favourite pubs in Galway, The Crane Bar on Sea Road / Small Crane in the Westend. The pub dates back to the 1930's when it was originally known as the West End Bar. In 1978 the pub's name was changed to The Crane Bar (named after the Small Crane market square where a crane used to be located to weigh produce at the market). Successfully run by Mick Crehan and Maeve Joyce since the early 2000's. The Crane offers traditional Irish music on a nightly basis, Rab Fulton's Celtic Tales on Thursdays and also hosts the Galway Sessions music festival. One of The Crane's most notable regulars is fictional detective Jack Taylor of Ken Bruen's Galway crime novels, who was played by Iain Glen in the subsequent tv series. We jumped into The Crane during their popular Sunday afternoon trad session. We had originally thought we may get around a few other pubs / playing cards that afternoon, but you can't go to The Crane Bar for just one drink. So we settled in for the afternoon to enjoy a few more jars with good people and good music. #52galwaypubs #galwaypubs #galwaytourism #galwaywestend #galwayswestend #thecranebar #cranebargalway #thecranebar #cowfielddesign #thisisgalway #wildatlanticway #lovegalway #guinness #irelandbyplayingcard #playingcards #irishtradmusic #irishtradsession #irishpubs

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The guys pick most of their cards up in souvenir shops as they travel, but thankfully the Galway pub deck can be gotten online at Cowfield Design.

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