142 Lecky Rd,
Every city has its sportsman’s bar, one long associated with the great sporting figures and occasions of yesterday and today, somewhere to rub elbows with a few of the major names of the sporting world.
Derry is doubly fortunate in this respect because the Bluebell Bar in the Bogside not only has more than its fair share of honoured sporting characters, it also has the most respected publican in town in the person of Liam Mailey, whose welcome is as warm as the blazing coal fire around which his customers cluster.
Sitting at the bar is legendary boxing champion Billy Kelly, whose 1955 photo has top billing above the mantelpiece beside that of his famous father, Spider Kelly, wearing his 1938 Lonsdale Belt.
Billy will tell you that the Lonsdale Belt he won in the mid-fifties was the last one of intrinsic value, made of gold, not of the mixture of cheaper metals used subsequently. Still champion in the hearts of his people, Billy Kelly today in the Bluebell takes the part of MC in the pub’s “back to back” talent competitions.
There’s a rare framed photo of the Belfast Celtic football team which toured the USA in 1949, and a handsome picture of the Derry City team of the fifties; the man to name them for you is to be seen behind glass on the walls and holding a glass at the counter – the great Fay Coyle, still not far from the Brandywell, where his skill and scoring ability made him a favourite.
Jim Crossan, Eddie Crossen, Jim Monaghan, Charlie Nash, Jimmy Kelly – you name them and, in all probability, the Bluebell will have hosted them.
Truly it is among the last of the traditional pubs in give yourself a sporting chance Derry and pay it a visit.