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Football

Soccer—called football in Europe—is very popular in Ireland, largely due to the euphoria resulting from the national team's underdog successes since the late 1980s.

Football Association of Ireland. League of Ireland matches take place throughout the city on Friday evening or Sunday afternoon from March to November. For details, contact the Football Association of Ireland. National Sports Campus, Snugborough Rd., Northside, Dublin, Co. Dublin, 15. 01/899--8500; www.fai.ie.

Gaelic Games

Gaelic Athletic Association. The traditional games of Ireland, Gaelic football and hurling, attract a huge following, with roaring crowds cheering on their county teams. Games are held at Croke Park, the stunning, high-tech national stadium for Gaelic games, just north of the city center. For details of matches, contact the Gaelic Athletic Association. Croke Park, North County Dublin, Dublin, Co. Dublin, 1. 01/836–3222; www.gaa.ie.

Golf

Hermitage Golf Club. Set in a part of the Liffey Valley idyllically titled the Strawberry Beds, this rolling parkland course has been a feature of West Dublin golf since 1905. The gentle terrain of the front 9 stands in start contrast to the stern, water-featured test that awaits you on the way home. The signature hole is the picturesque 10th, which looks down on the river as it winds through a spectacular treescape. The course has seen some big personalities walk its fairways over the years, including Bing Crosby, Seve Ballesteros, and Colin Montgomerie. A sense of history pervades the place. Lucan, Co. Dublin, 01/626–8491; www.hermitagegolf.ie. Weekdays €50, weekends €55.

Island Golf Club. Talk about exclusive—until 1960, the only way to reach this club was by boat. It was about as remote as you could get and still be only 24 km (15 miles) from Dublin. But things have changed. The Island has opened its doors to reveal a fine links course with holes that force you to navigate between spectacular sand dunes toward small, challenging greens. Corballis, Donabate, Co. Dublin, 353/18436 205; www.theislandgolfclub.com. €125. Visitors: daily.

Portmarnock Golf Club. The hoo-ha and court battles over Portmarnock's refusal to admit women as full members often overshadows the club's position as the most famous of Ireland's "Big Four" (Ballybunion, Royal County Down, and Royal Portrush are the others). This links course, on a sandy peninsula north of Dublin, has hosted numerous major championships and Tom Watson often used it as a preparation for the Open. Known for its flat fairways and greens and its 100-plus bunkers, it provides a fair test for any golfer who can keep it out of the heavy rough. Greens fees include lunch. Portmarnock, Co. Dublin, 01/846–2968; www.portmarnockgolfclub.ie. €175. Visitors: daily.

The Royal Dublin Golf Club. Links courses are usually in remote, even desolate areas, but this captivating one is only 6 km (4 miles) from the center of Dublin—on Bull Island, a bird sanctuary. Royal Dublin is Ireland's third-oldest club. This links course has always been challenging but Martin Hawtree's ongoing redesign is making things even trickier. Watch out for the 5th, the 13th, and the infamous 18th—a par-4 dogleg with plenty of opportunities to shoot out-of-bounds. Dollymount, Co. Dublin, 01/833–6346; www.theroyaldublingolfclub.com. April–Oct., €120; Mar., €100, €125; Jan.–Feb., €90; Nov.–Dec., €65. Visitors: Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri..

Horse Racing

Horse racing—from flat to hurdle to steeplechase—is one of the great sporting loves of the Irish. The sport is closely followed and betting is popular, but the social side of attending races is equally important to Dubliners.

The Curragh Racecourse. Southwest of Dublin off M7, the Curragh hosts the five Classics, the most important flat races of the season, from May to September. There are numerous bars here and two restaurants. Off Exit 12 of M7 between Newbridge and Kildare Town, Dublin, Co. Dublin, 045/441–205; www.curragh.ie.

Fairyhouse Racecourse. Every Easter Monday, Fairyhouse hosts the Grand National, the most popular steeplechase of the season. It's about an hour north of Dublin. Ratoath, Dublin, Co. Dublin, Co. Meath. 01/825–6167; www.fairyhouseracecourse.ie.

Leopardstown Racecourse. The hub of horse racing in Dublin is Leopardstown, an ultramodern course that in February hosts the Hennessey Gold Cup, one of Ireland's most prestigious steeplechases. Summertime is devoted to flat racing, and the rest of the year to racing over fences. You can also nip in for a quick meal at the restaurant. Leopardstown Rd., South County Dublin, Dublin, Co. Dublin, 18. 01/289–3600; www.leopardstown.com.

Rugby

For many years rugby was a "garrison sport" in Ireland, the preserve of "West Brits" and private-school boys. The success of the Irish team internationally, and Ulster, Leinster, and Munster in European club competitions, has changed that somewhat, and you might see an oval ball being tossed around by kids in any area of the country.

Aviva Stadium. The home ground of Irish rugby and soccer, Aviva's state-of-the-art arena opened in 2010 (on the site of the old Lansdowne Stadium) and can accommodate 50,000 fans. 62 Lansdowne Rd., Ballsbridge, Dublin, Co. Dublin, 4. 01/238–2300; www.avivastadium.ie.