Subscriber OnlyRoss O'Carroll-Kelly

‘Ross, didn’t you get a present of an All Blacks jersey once and use it to wash the cor?’

There’s something to be said for doing a complete cull of your friends every few years.

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

So we’re in Corcoran’s on the famous Boulevord de Clichy – we’re talking me, Christian, JP, Oisinn and Fionn – and I’m telling the goys why I think we’ll beat the All Blacks on Saturday and why I think it won’t even be close? But they only want one question answered.

“What are you going to do,” JP goes, “when the haka storts?”

So I tell him straight out.

I’m there, “I’m going to pop out for my prematch slash – like I always do?”


Oisinn just shakes his head. He’s there, “Ross, it’s a focking World Cup quarter-final.”

I’m like, “Your point being?”

And he goes, “It’s port of the colour and – I want to say – pageantry surrounding the game? Could you not for once just, I don’t know, embrace it?”

I’m there, “I just think, if you want to do your little dance, then do it on your own time. The Irish players shouldn’t have to stand there freezing their nuts off watching it. I mean, we don’t ask other teams to wait around while we do a five-minute re-enactment of ... I don’t know, help me out here, Fionn – have there been any big battles in Ireland?”

Fionn goes, “Yes, Ross, there have been some big battles in Ireland. But I’m with Oisinn and JP on this one. I don’t know why you hate the All Blacks so much.”

I just shrug. I’m there, “For the same reason I hate Clongowes, Blackrock, Michael’s, and every other school.”

He’s like, “No, this goes way beyond that. Didn’t you get a present of an All Blacks jersey once and you used it to wash the cor?”

I’m there, “Dude, that’s libellous. I’ve never washed a cor in my life. I threw it in the focking bin.”

Fionn’s there, “And didn’t you tell your own children that the day Ireland beat New Zealand in Chicago was the happiest day of your life and even better than the days when they were born?”

I’m like, “People romanticise the whole having kids thing. They can be very focking annoying.”

JP goes, “And do you remember at your wedding, Christian? And we – as your, like, groomsmen – performed a haka on the dance floor as, like, our present to you? Ross was the only one who refused to do it.”

I’m there, “I bought him a Nespresso machine. I’m not a Maori warrior. Maybe some other people need to come to terms with that themselves.”

I signal to the borman for the same again.

Oisinn’s there, “It has to have something to do with what happened against the Lions in ‘05. You were very upset about what Tana Umaga did to Drico.”

I’m there, “I said it to Samantha Libreri outside Kielys that night. No Maori warrior would set out to deliberately hurt someone like that.”

Then JP storts doing an impression of me on the news that time. He’s like, “I don’t know if it’s possible to transplant an actual shoulder between now and the second test, but I would happily give him mine, Samantha.

The goys all laugh. I knock back a mouthful of the Dutch master and I’m there, “Hey, I meant every word.”

Oisinn’s like, “Actually, no, he hated the All Blacks way before that. Do you remember when we were in transition year and someone managed to bring the great Jonah Lomu over to Ireland to give us a motivational talk? Where were you that day, Ross?”

I’m there, “Double Maths. I think it was the only time I ever went to that class.”

Christian, who’s known me the longest, goes, “I can give you an even earlier example. Back in the day – how old were we, Ross? Were we, like, nine or 10 years of age? Anyway, Ross’s old man took us to see Ireland against the All Blacks at Lansdowne Road. And Ross not only turned his back on the haka, he screamed so much foul-mouthed abuse at the All Blacks every time they had the ball that the stewards asked us to leave 20 minutes into the game.”

There’s something to be said for doing a complete cull of your friends every four or five years. You keep them around too long and they get to know too much about you.

He goes, “And this was as a direct result of something that happened in school a week earlier.”

He takes a sip of his – yeah, no – Diet Coke, loving being the centre of attention.

“Come on,” JP goes, “spill the beans, Dude.”

I’m there, “I don’t know what he’s about to say here but it already sounds like horsesh*t to me.”

He goes, “We had this teacher, Miss Danaher – from somewhere around Portmornock – who used to take us for French. And Ross was absolutely besotted with her.”

I’m there, “I was hordly besotted. It was a crush. End of story. Are we talking here or are we drinking?”

“Absolutely besotted,” Christian goes. “Like, every time she asked him a question, his little cheeks would turn red.”

The goys are all loving this, of course. They’re, like, hanging on his every word.

He goes, “He asked her one day, ‘Miss Danaher – how do you say ‘I love you’ in French?’”

This is apparently hilarious. Oisinn laughs so hord that he ends up pretty much showering me in Heineken.

“So one day,” Christain goes, “this dude arrived in an open-top cor to collect her from school. He was, like, six-foot-seven and as wide as a Portaloo. He was a secondrow. Hadn’t he just signed for someone, Ross?”

I’m there, “This is such a made-up story ... I’m pretty sure it was Old Belvedere.”

“Old Belvedere!” he goes. “That was it! It turned out that he and Miss Danaher were engaged to be married. Ross just stood there staring at him with his mouth open. And the dude copped it straight away. He knew this kid had a crush on his fiancee. He walked up to Ross and he said, ‘I hear you’re in love with my girlfriend,’ and poor Ross was like a gibbering wreck. He was like, ‘Y-, Y-, Y-, Y-, Yeah.’ And this dude said, ‘I’ll fight you for her.’ Ross nearly fainted. Miss Danaher arrived and told her boyfriend that he was terrible and the two of them drove off, laughing their heads off, in this dude’s – again – sports cor?”

I’m there, “Like I said – total bullsh*t. It’s all because of Tana Umaga. Where is this dude with our drinks?”

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