I visited O'Donoghue's several times in late September 2012. The main entry leads to the original pub, where the Dubliners entertained and gained fame through countless traditional music "sessions" in the 20th century. Huge portraits of the original Dubliners stare down over the area where their sessions delighted so many for so long. Opposite, you find the many other faces that appeared with them in various configurations over those same decades. Past the session area, you find the bar - ageless, classic and gorgeous, as are most bars in good Irish pubs. Beyond, you find a narrow passage full of additional seating, through which you can almost traverse when the place is crowded.. if you are a hurdler. Often, a second traditional music session is happening back there as well! As it happens, though, everyone's a pal in the pub and nobody minds getting out of your way if you're headed through the back exit.
The back exit leads to an awning covered open air passage between the old pub and their newer acquisition on the other side. Smokers and younger pubgoers tend to populate that area, in which heat lamps blaze on chilly nights to warm the patrons, large barrel casks are often used as bistro tables, and rain is diverted from the heads of the revelers.
On the far side of the passage (in Chicago we call them gangways or alleys), double doors admit you to the new, multi-sectioned portion of the property, with more bars, private-party areas and the better restrooms. All three sections open out to Merrion Row, so it isn't necessary to snake your way through to your desired third of the place from the main door.
The staff takes good care of their patrons and everyone seems to treat each other well. All my Guinness pints were properly drawn, but they'll make other drinks just as you like them, also. Prices were quite comparable to other pubs i visited last week, and the atmos is friendly. Patrons range to all ages - parents can bring their children into pubs up until probably 9-10 pm - I'm not sure of the specifics for that custom. I met patrons from various countries and all over Ireland. The traditional music runs from ballads to reels to jigs to fighting songs to drinking songs to love songs to.. well, it's trad. It's everything. Performers vary from evening to evening, but the quality is always top notch.
The place gets good and crowded on weekends, but if you can stand the squeezing-through when you have to move through the place, you're grand. Otherwise, hit O'Donoghue's on a weeknight and enjoy the relatively more spacious atmos. It's great craic and worth the visit.