An Ode to the Madra Rua
How a small bar took a chance and became the epicenter of a thriving community of Football fans, both Liverpool and otherwise
In the 2007-08 season, my stepfather, Jim Lynch, and I, around 13 or 14 at the time, stepped in to the Madra Rua, Irish Pub in Charleston, South Carolina for the very first time.
Little did we know that nearly 12 years later, the bar would be home to an Official Liverpool Supporters Club of nearly 200 people, and host just about that many in May of 2018 when the Reds made the Champions League final, while the bar became one of the epicenters of Football in the Southeastern US for fans of Liverpool and other teams alike.
Little did we know that the people we met there would become family, there through ups and downs, always willing to help each other when on hard times, always willing to listen, debate and be welcoming of fellow fans no matter who they were or where they came from.
It started with four of us. One of the biggest things watching the matches at the bar gave me is the ability to converse with likeminded people, thus weighing my opinions against those of my peers and ultimately making me a better fan because of it.
The pub promised two things, both of which we lacked in the area at the time. A traditional Irish Pub experience, and a place that would open for the early morning Football on Saturdays and Sundays. In some ways, we look back on those days in awe of how simple it was and how far we’ve come.
Those were the days of Rafa’s Reds, Setanta Sports and Special 1 TV, when Liverpool looked like the stars were beginning to shine on Anfield again after three cup final appearances in successive seasons and some of the world’s best plying their trade for the men in Red. Eventually, the word on the street was out, and fans of other teams would congregate for their matches, But to this day, Liverpool remain the biggest group of fans that called the Madra home. To that end, a few years later, with about 20-30 Kopites making a regular appearance at the bar, we decided to look into gaining official Fan Club status, but were put on a waiting list as the club weren’t taking any new applications at that time.
Our first real crowning moment was 2012. The league cup final between the Redmen and Cardiff City, where Liverpool, as per usual, never made things easy and won on Penalties. That remains one of the most memorable days as a fan for many of us, and was a sign, with the entire bar full of Reds, that South Carolina was capable of being an official fan club.
That summer, a large group of us had travelled to Boston and Baltimore to watch the Reds on their first pre-season tour of the USA since 2004, yet another bonding experience as the group of us made the 14 hour pilgrimage to Fenway Park to see Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool, all made possible because a little bar took a chance and gave us a place to meet.
And lo and behold, word came down in February of 2013 that Liverpool had re-opened the applications process for OLSCs and that South Carolina had been granted official status. This was all happening very quickly. The following season, “Brendan’s Heart-attack Reds” mounted their title challenge, and OLSC-SC were drawing 50-60 fans, which even included some of the bartenders and other staff who had chosen clubs, and was around the number present for the 2012 League Cup final, nearly every match. Granted, the title bid was unsuccessful. But being around what we all now considered to be family, made the pain of it all a little easier to bear.
The atmosphere at the Madra remained unmatched. We would have members go on vacation and tell us that it just wasn’t the same. Maybe there were better beers, better TVs, more space, but there was something to be said about the camaraderie that the Madra provided. After all, the group did start with four of us, and maybe perhaps a major part of the reason we originally became friendly was because the bar had such limited space.
The crowning achievement, despite the result, was when Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool made the Champions League final in May of last year. We had experienced finals before, but the Champions League was the cream of the crop, and it looked as if Liverpool were as well.
More than 200 people showed up to watch the Reds that day, and though they were beaten, it was great to see that the Club had an even bigger reach than ever before, and that they all knew that Madra Rua was the best place to watch it all unfold.
And then came this season. Everyone was in high spirits. Jurgen’s Reds are in the middle of battling for their first League title in 29 years. There was and is much to be happy about as a Liverpool fan, even if, eventually, the challenge proves unsuccessful. But the Madra Rua won’t be able to be a part of it.
In the early hours of February 9, 2019, the Madra Rua caught fire. The side of the bar that Liverpool fans frequent most was completely destroyed, the roof caved in, and the rest of the bar suffered severe smoke and water damage.
It remains to be seen when the bar will re-open, but the staff are adamant that they will rebuild. It also leaves LFC SC and other fans without a home bar to watch matches, but it is with the same sense of family that we and the bar will get through these hard times to come out the other end stronger than ever before, because, as the old song goes, “At the end of a storm, there’s a Golden Sky”.
On our darkest day @MadraRuaPC through the ashes there was a ray of hope. Thank you @NCFDSC for saving our cherished @IrishRugby #GuinessSixNations Jersey.
We will be forever in your debt for everything you did for us. pic.twitter.com/WkuLiS0ARo
— MadraRuaParkCircle (@MadraRuaPC) February 10, 2019
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Check this out if you have a moment. https://t.co/XMOF30ozAV
— Vesko Trajković (@VeskoTrajkovic) February 12, 2019