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Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: I’m 43. Andy Farrell would want to be pretty focking desperate for a 10 to pick me

Ross gets a call from the old dear. She’s definitely got an – if this is an actual word – alterior motive

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Ross O'Carroll-Kelly in his British & Irish Lions rugby shirt. Illustration: Alan Clarke.

The old dear rings me and asks me to meet her for Sunday lunch in some, I don’t know, random Italian restaurant in Ranelagh.

I’m like, “You?” because – yeah, no – the previous night ended up being an obviously late one. “Why would I want to meet you for Sunday lunch – you focking gin-addled, John Dory-faced, old crone?”

“Because,” she goes, “it’s Mother’s Day.”

It’s a mic drop moment and the woman knows it.


I’m there, “Fair enough. But is Sunday lunch not a bit, I don’t know, OTT? As in, can I not just get Tesco Online to deliver a bunch of whatevers to you – same as every other year?”

She goes, “Ross, I know that you and I have never been close. I realise that on some level you still resent me for never having breastfed you. That’s why, even today, you can’t stop yourself from looking at my chest with those big greedy eyes of yours.”

I’m there, “Yeah, Mom, can you maybe not?”

She’s like, “Anyway, what I was going to say was that, well, I’m not getting any younger, Dorling. I’m past 60 now.”

“Yeah, you’re past 70 as well,” I go.

“And I was thinking that we should at least try to connect with each other – if it’s true that I am in my autumn years.”

“Winter years. Deep, deep winter years.”

“So what do you say?”

“I don’t know what to say. Anytime you ever want to do something with me, you always have some – I think it’s a word – alterior motive?”

“I have no motive,” she goes, “other than to try to put our relationship on a normal mother-son footing. I’ve booked the table for one o’clock.”

To cut a long story short, I end up going. Too nice for my own good – that’s always been my problem. Along with obviously cheating on my wife.

I walk into the restaurant and I end up hearing her before I see her.

She’s like, “Ross! O’Carroll! Kelly!” and I notice that she’s walking across the floor to welcome me. She kisses me on both cheeks – the cheeks of my face, I possibly don’t need to add – and goes, “You’re very welcome! Come and sit down!” and she leads me to a table for two in the corner.

She’s torted up to the absolute nines, by the way. She looks like the kind of older woman I would have tried to get off with in the Hampton Hotel back in the day – if that’s not too weird a thing to say about your own mother.

She goes, “Sit down. Tell me what’s been happening. I believe Ireland had another win in the rugby Grand Slam thing yesterday.”

For fock’s sake.

I’m there, “Yeah, no, they won the Grand Slam. They beat England. Happened pretty much the way I predicted as well. I said that England wouldn’t come here and just roll over. Even when they were down to 14 men, I said they were still dangerous. I read the game so well.”

She goes, “What a wonderful story! And did you go out to celebrate the big win with your pals?”

I’m like, “Yeah, no, we’d a massive feed of pints in The Bridge, then we headed back to JP’s gaff. I drank half a bottle of tequila and vomited in his fish tank. I think I’m still a bit pissed actually.”

She laughs like this is the funniest thing she’s ever heard. And bear in mind, I haven’t seen the woman even smile since Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh and Celia Holman Lee wore the same dress to the VIP Style Awards in 2005.

She’s there, “What a gorgeous, gorgeous anecdote,” at the same time touching my orm. I’m wondering is she still a bit pissed from last night as well. “Do you miss it, Ross?”

I’m there, “Er, in terms of?”

She goes, “Do you miss playing rugby? Did you watch yesterday’s big match and think that it should have been you down there on the pitch?”

I’m there, “I’m 43 years old, woman. Andy Farrell would want to be pretty focking desperate for a 10 to pick me.”

Her head is bobbing up and down like a dashboard doggy and she’s grinning like a serial killer.

I’m like, “Obviously, I’m disappointed that I never had the rugby career that a lot of people, including the great Tony Ward, predicted for me. But I’d like to think that my rugby journey – if I’m allowed to call it that – is far from over and that the IRFU might one day find a way to utilise my vast knowledge and, I’m sorely tempted to say, wisdom.”

She goes, “How lovely!” again touching my orm. “And how’s your lovely family?”

And it’s just, like, so random, because she’s not talking about herself for once – it’s all about me? It’s nice, but it’s – again – random.

I’m there, “Are you on something?”

She goes, “You really are a wonderful husband and father. Talk to me about family life and what it means to you.”

I’m like, “I don’t know. I try not to overthink it. My approach to marriage and parenting is just to, like, wing it. It’s probably why my kids are focking psychopaths.”

Again, she laughs and touches my orm. She’s like, “I’m sure that’s not true! Talk to me a little bit about issues. What moves you, Ross? What concerns you when you look at the world?”

I’m there, “Nothing concerns me. We’re rolling in it. Why are you talking to me like this?”

She’s like, “I’m just making conversation, Ross.”

I’m there, “You’re talking to me like some kind of chatshow host–” and then I suddenly stop because the penny has sort of, like, dropped? “Are you, like, auditioning for the Late Late gig or something?”

She lowers her voice to a whisper. She’s like, “Okay, don’t make a big fuss about it, but Dee Forbes is sitting two tables away from us.”

I’m there, “Is that why you asked me out for lunch?”

“I found out that she was going to be here and I wanted her to see that I still have what it takes to hold a conversation with someone, that it is informative as well as entertaining.”

I stand up. I’m there, “I am so focking out of here.”

As I’m walking away, at the top of her voice she goes, “Ross O’Carroll-Kelly – thank you for being my guest!”

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