Subscriber OnlyRoss O'Carroll-Kelly

‘I haven’t cheated on you in, like, 10 years, though – well, let’s just say a long time’

Yes, I’m wearing Lynx Africa, not to mask the smell of adultery, but that of B.O. - unbelievable as that obviously is

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Ross O'Carroll-Kelly in his Leinster gear. Illustration: Alan Clarke

Sorcha asks me straight out if I’m having an affair.

I’m like, “Why would you even think that?”

She goes, “Er, because you’ve been cheating on me since we were, like, 17?”

Jesus, the girl holds a grudge like Taylor Swift.


I’m there, “I haven’t cheated on you in, like, 10 years, though – well, let’s just say a long time.”

She goes, “Then how do you explain your behaviour?”

“What behaviour?”

“Er, I cooked us dinner on Valentine’s Night? You said you were popping out to Mitchell’s for a bottle of something.”

“I got talking.”

“You arrived home at midnight.”

“I was talking about rugby. Do you remember Wingnut Walton? I played with him for Seapoint – Mon the Point! – and his sister-in-law was in your Rebound Exercise class? Anyway, he was saying he thought England would beat Ireland at Twickenham and I was just explaining to him all the ways in which he was wrong.”

“For four hours?”

“It could have gone on for longer – had two or three passersby not pulled us aport.”

“Do you honestly expect me to believe that?”

“I do, Sorcha. I genuinely, genuinely do.”

Of course, I could just tell her the truth, that I’ve been playing padel with a girl named Réaltín and that tonight we beat Ray Gough and Kay Brannock – the reigning champions, by the way – to reach the quarter-finals of the Leinster Padel Mixed Doubles Championship.

I could just tell her that I’ve met someone who understands me – my strengths and my, believe it or not, weaknesses – better than anyone has ever understood me. I could just tell her that this woman has reignited something in me that I thought went out a long time ago – my desire to be the best at something. I could just tell her that my nights playing padel are the happiest I’ve been since I lifted the old colander for Castlerock College back in the day.

But it’d be easier to tell her that I’m having an affair. I mean, sex is just sex, isn’t it?

“Are you wearing Lynx Africa?” she goes.

I’m there, “Yes, I’m wearing Lynx Africa. I always keep a can in the glovebox.”

“To mask the smell of adultery?”

“No, to mask the smell of B.O. Yeah, no, I was sitting at a red light on Trees Road in Mount Merrion and I caught a whiff of something – turned out to be me. Sorcha, are you going to let me in?”

Yeah, no, I’m still standing at the front door, by the way. She finally steps to one side and allows me into the house.

“Plus, you seem really happy,” she goes.

She’s not letting it go. She’s like Columbo. Dogged.

I’m there, “Do I?”

She’s like, “Weirdly so.”

“Well, bear with me – I’m sure it won’t last.”

“When I say happy, Ross, I mean elated. I honestly haven’t seen you like this since –”

“Since what?”

“– since you won the Leinster Schools Senior Cup with Castlerock College.”

Yeah, no, she’s spot-on about the elation thing, although I’m not sure it’s just down to us destroying Ray Gough and Kay Brannock in straight sets tonight. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the mystery concoctions that Réaltín makes me drink before every match. All she’ll tell me is that they’re “90 per cent protein”, but I’m storting to get the distinct impression that the balance is Ecstasy.

Sorcha, I promise you – on my children’s lives – I am not having an affair. I wish you’d believe me

Sorcha goes, “You’re awake for hours at night. And when you finally do fall asleep, you shout things out.”

I’m there, “What kind of things?”

She goes, “What did you think of my willy? You like that willy?

Yeah, no, a willy is a between-the-legs shot.

I’m there, “That’s random. And what else, Sorcha?”

I’m loving your vibora tonight. It’s Gancho Time, Baby. Whoa, nice bajada.

Hey, I didn’t invent the language of the game.

I’m there, “I’m obviously just babbling.”

She goes, “It sounds like dirty talk to me.”

“I’m wondering am I getting enough protein into me – or am I getting too much? It’s the new obsession, isn’t it? Used to be three litres of water per day. Then was it was 10,000 steps, wasn’t it?”

“You haven’t talked dirty to me in a long time.”

“Haven’t I? Okay, you’ve a nice bajada as well, Sorcha – in fairness to you.”

“It doesn’t work if I have to ask you to say it? And when you say it in your sleep, you say it with –”

“With what?”

“With passion.”

I’m there, “Sorcha, I promise you – on my children’s lives – I am not having an affair,” as I take my jacket off and hang it on the back of a chair. “I wish you’d believe me. For once in my life, I’m telling the truth. Talk about giving a dog a bad name.”

“Your T-shirt is on inside-out,” she goes.

I’m there, “Excuse me?”

“Your Leinster training top – or whatever it’s called. The label is on the outside?”

Fock! Yeah, no, I got dressed in a hurry because Réaltín wanted us to gloat to Ray Gough and Kay Brannock about our win – “Yeah, you suck, losers!” – before they managed to slip away.

I’m there, “Sorcha, I’m always putting my top on inside-out – usually because I’m thinking about rugby at the time. And like I said to you, I’m very, very invested in this match at Twickenham. I think things will go back to normal once we get beyond that.”

She wants to believe that I’m telling the truth, but she’s been burned too many times in the past.

She goes, “I’m going to bed.”

I’m there, “I’ll be up shortly after you.”

I sit down on the sofa and I whip out my Rugby Tactics Book, which is fast becoming a Padel Tactics Book. My mind is absolutely brimming with ideas for plays and shots, and whatever else.

What happens then is what usually happens when my brain overheats. I end up totally conking out. It’s like my mind just decides, okay, I can’t take any more of this deep thinking. I’m shutting the entire show down.

And the next thing I remember is Sorcha shaking me awake at, like, three o’clock in the morning and going, “Ross? You’re shouting, ‘Show me your cuchilla! I want to see your cuchilla!’”

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