Subscriber OnlyRoss O'Carroll-Kelly

‘Goys – it’s time that I got the tattoo’

So I’m sitting in a boozer in Covent Gorden when an idea pops into my little drunken mind

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So I’m sitting in a boozer in Covent Gorden, just on the outskirts of Sh*tfaced, Gloucestershire, when an idea pops into my little drunken mind. And like many ideas that come to me when I’ve had a skinful, I can’t believe that I haven’t thought of it before.

I’m there, “Goys – it’s time that I got the tattoo”.

Yeah, no, it’s Friday afternoon in London, the day before the European Champions Cup final. We’ve spent the last three hours talking about our favourite memories from our years following Leinster through thick and – sometimes – thin, and suddenly it seems like the most logical thing in the world to do?

“Matter of fact,” I go, “I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to do it.”


The goys are instantly concerned about me. I’ve said enough about tattoos and the people who get them over the years for them to wonder whether this is down to drink rather than too much love for The Ster.

JP even suggests ringing Sorcha to float the idea by her, but I’m already Googling nearby tattoo porlours on my phone, and twenty minutes later, I’m climbing two sets of stairs to Tat’s Entertainment on Shaftesbury Avenue, above a Chinese restaurant with ducks turning on a spit in the window.

The goys are all still pleading with me. Oisinn’s going, “Ross, I’m just saying you might regret it when you wake up tomorrow.”

But they all played rugby with me and they know better than to try to talk me around when I’m decided on a gameplan.

The tattoo ortist is called Lu and she’s – and I hope this doesn’t get me cancelled – Chinese? She asks me what I want as I dock my orse in her chair and I go, “It’s very simple. You see these four yellow stors here on my Leinster jersey?” and I stort taking the thing off over my head. “I want them put here,” pointing to the left side of my chest just above my nipple.

She’s like, “Just stars?”

And I’m there, “Yeah, no, one for each of the European Cups that Leinster have won”, and I can feel myself tearing up saying it.

Christian goes, “Ross, I just know that Sorcha is going to ask me why I didn’t stop you doing this”.

And I’m there, “Sorcha is going to love it. Matter of fact, her birthday is coming up. Be a nice early present for her. Aaarrrggghhh!!!”

Yeah, no, the needle hurts, even with seven or eight pints onboard. Lu asks me if I want her to stop, but I go, “Just ignore me. I have a very low tolerance for pain.”

“And embarrassment,” Fionn – under his breath – goes.

But I blank out the voices of the haters and the doubters as I watch the first stor take shape in the mirror.

“Leinster versus Leicester in Edinburgh, 2009,” I go. “The economy was in the toilet and I’d just storted working – working! – for Shred Focking Everything, my old man’s document disposal business. I mean, the idea of it now! Anyway, we were losing, like, 16-9 when Heaslip came up with a try and then Johnny won it for us with a penalty. Rocky Elsom was immense that day.”

Lu doesn’t comment on any of this. Again, she’s Chinese and it’s quite possible that rugby does nothing for her.

I’m there, “Immense. Arghhh!!! Jesus, that needle’s shorp, in fairness to it!”

She moves onto the second one.

I’m there, “Northampton in Cordiff. The famous miracle match of 2011. The greatest comeback ever. We were supposably dead and buried at half-time. These dudes here wanted to head for the airport. But I gave them a similar bollocking to the one Johnny gave the players in the dressing room. The best day of my – ouch! – life and I’m including my wedding day and the birth of my children in that.”

None of the goys can look me in the eye. They genuinely did want to fock off until Johnny turned them from leavers into believers.

“Number three,” I go, as Lu moves across my chest. “Ulster at Twickers the following year. Was easy in the end. Except I somehow ended up with tickets for the Ulster section and their fans made me take my Leinster jersey off. I didn’t mind – I was seriously ripped in those days and bench-pressing something ridiculous – except it was a freezing cold day. You could have hung a wet trench coat from my nipples when Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings lifted the old tinware at the end.”

In the mirror, I can see the goys smiling at the memory now.

“Ah, the fourth one,” I go. “It was 2018. We beat Racing in a country called Bilbao.”

Fionn goes, “It’s a city, Ross, not a country.”

I’m there, “Are you sure about that?”

He’s like, “Yes, Ross, I’m sure.”

So we agree to differ.

I’m there, “I didn’t enjoy a single second of it. Yeah, no, it was too tense to feel any joy until it was all over. It was, like, a kicking contest and we were never ahead until right at the end. Isa kicked two penalties in the last six minutes and we sneaked it. I’ve never felt – whoa, go easy there! – relief like it.”

She finishes the fourth one and goes, “All done,” and I’m staring at my reflection in the mirror, admiring her handiwork and – again – feeling a bit emotional.

“So”, I go, “are you open tomorrow?”

She’s like, “No – closed on Sunday.”

The goys know what I’m going to say before I even say it. Christian’s like, “Ross, don’t do it”.

But I’m like, “Put a fifth one there, will you?”

She goes, “A fifth?”

And I’m there, “Beside the others, yeah.”

JP goes, “Dude, what are you doing? You’re going to focking jinx it.”

I’m like, “I don’t believe in jinxes. I believe in Leinster. So I’m going for it. Do your worst, Lu.”

So she goes back to work while I watch the goys roll their eyes and shake their heads in the mirror.

Christian goes, “This is why other fans hate us. It’s arrogance.”

Fionn’s there, “It’s entitlement,” pretending that he didn’t go to a private school that chorged €12,000 a term.

“Number five,” I go. “Twenty-twenty-four. Toulouse at the, I don’t know, Something Something Soccer Stadium in London. Two words for you, goys. Never. In. Doubt.”

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O’Carroll-Kelly was captain of the Castlerock College team that won the Leinster Schools Senior Cup in 1999. It’s rare that a day goes by when he doesn’t mention it