Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: Sixmas is what I call the Six Nations Championship – the most wonderful time of the year

Ross has a treat for the girls’ team: his DVD of the 2009 Six Nations

Listen | 06:43
Ross O'Carroll-Kelly in his Leinster rugby jersey. Illustration: Alan Clarke.
'Young people today have literally no ability to concentrate.' Illustration: Alan Clarke

I go, “Twas the week before Sixmas, and all through the class, nothing was stirring, not even a mouse!”

The girls all look at me with, like, no expressions on their faces.

I’m like, “Just to explain, Sixmas is what I call the Six Nations Championship – because it’s the most wonderful time of the year for me and a lot of people like me.”

“What are we even doing here?” one of the girls goes.


Here, by the way, is the school media room. I have a little surprise for them.

“Okay,” I go, “I know how hord you’ve all been working, with this – I’m going to call it a grudge match? – against Newpork Comprehensive coming up. So I have a little treat for you this lunchtime.”

“Are you bringing us all to Chapter One?” Shosh Birney – our scrumhalf – goes.

Chapter One. That’ll tell you where these kids are coming from. Mostly Donnybrook.

I’m like, “No, I’m not bringing you all to Chapter One. What we’re actually going to do ... is watch this?” and I show them my DVD of the 2009 Six Nations Championship.

It’s a real tah-dah moment – but, again, they all just stare at me blankly.

“What is it?” Angelisa Gunning – our captain – goes.

I’m thinking, are we all suddenly that ancient?

I’m there, “Yeah, no, it’s called a DVD.”

“Oh my God!” Shosh goes. “My dad has, like, loads of those? It’s how they used to watch movies in, like, the olden days? My mom brought them to the charity shop but they said they didn’t take them any more.”

I’m like, “Yeah, no, can we maybe focus here? This is the DVD of the 2009 Six Nations.”

“Oh my God,” Shosh goes, “that was the year I was born.”

“Me too!” the rest of them stort going.

Okay, we really are that ancient.

“Well, spoiler alert,” I go, “I’m going to tell you what happens at the end. Ireland win the Grand Slam!”

I slip it into the DVD player.

“Did you play in it?” Angelisa goes.

Talk about getting straight to the hort of the matter.

I’m like, “Er, no, I didn’t,” and I hear a slight wobble in my voice as I say it. “But I very nearly could have if circumstances had been a bit different.”

“If you’d been a better rugby player?” she goes.

I’m there, “Can we maybe just watch this?” and I press play on the remote. “Okay, first up is Ireland v France at Croke Pork.”

“Why are they playing at Croke Pork?” Tien Lockridge, our number eight, goes.

I’m there, “Long story, best forgotten. Okay, look at the line-up. Jamie Heaslip. Personal friend of mine. Rob Kearney. Personal friend of mine. Luke Fitzgerald. Personal friend of mine – even though I ruined his 30th. Tommy Bowe–”

“Tommy Bowe?” Tien goes. “As in, like, Tommy Bowe off Ireland AM?”

I’m like, “The very same.”

“Did he play rugby?”

“Understatement of the century. I’ve got another DVD at home that my daughter put together for me for my Christmas present one year – every try he ever scored for Ireland. Thirty of them. I still watch it on average twice a week. There’s Brian O’Driscoll. Personal friend of mine. Donncha O’Callaghan–”

I could get one or two of those players to come in here to talk to you about what it takes to be a winner. I could ask Ronan O’Gara himself – although he’d probably say no, given that it’s me

“Donncha O’Callaghan?” Angelisa goes. “Off the 2fm Breakfast Show?”

I’m there, “Yes, that Donncha O’Callaghan.”

She’s like, “Me and my mom always listen to him on the way to school! He’s so funny!”

I’m there, “Can we maybe focus on the rugby element here?”

“Oh my God,” Shosh goes, “I love Doireann Garrihy!”

I’m there, “Okay, do you know what?” because young people today have literally no ability to concentrate. “I’m going to fast forward this to the very end – okay? It all came down to the final match against Wales in Cordiff. Here we go. Bear in mind, Ireland are a point behind and there’s, like, three-and-a-half minutes left.”

I end up saying the lines at the exact same time as Ryle Nugent. I’m there, “Stringer looks to set it up ... O’Gara has now dropped back into the pocket! Ryle Nugent. Another personal friend, by the way.”

Rebecca Kelly – our inside-centre – goes, “Er, why are watching this?”

I’m there, “Because it’s one of the greatest moments in our country’s history. We hadn’t won a Grand Slam since–” and I check the DVD box, “since 1948. Okay, this is the moment. Ireland in position! This must be it! This must be it for Ronan O’Gara! Drop at goal! Grand Slam at stake! He’s got it!

It’s possibly stupid but I still tear up after all these years. I notice that no one else does, though?

“And this is supposed to affect us how?” Rebecca goes.

Teenage girls. They’re a tough, tough audience. I’ve got one at home.

I’m there, “I thought it might help motivate you. I could get one or two of those players to come in here to talk to you about what it takes to be a winner. I could ask Ronan O’Gara himself – although he’d probably say no, given that it’s me. But Peter Stringer, Rob Kearney, any of the others.”

They all just look at me. Zero interest.

Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: ‘Would I have to take my top off for any of these jobs? That wouldn’t be an issue for me. I’m in incredible shape’Opens in new window ]

Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: If women’s rugby is ever going to be treated seriously, they’ll have to embrace the whole obnoxiousness thingOpens in new window ]

“Did the Ireland women’s team ever win a Grand Slam?” Shosh goes.

Obviously, I’m like, “Er ...”

Rebecca’s there, “They did,” with her face in her phone. “They won one in, like, 2013.”

Shosh is like, “So why aren’t we watching that?”

I’m there, “Because I don’t know if it came out on DVD. If it did, nobody bought it for me.”

“It’s on YouTube,” Rebecca goes.

I’m like, “Well, 30 of us can’t sit around watching it on your phone, Rebecca.”

She goes, “Er, we don’t have to? I can cast it from my phone to the TV.”

I don’t even ask to explain. I let her do the necessary and suddenly the room goes quiet and every single one of them is gripped by Ireland’s 12-10 victory over Wales in Cordiff.

“Jenny Murphy,” I go. “Personal friend.”

But they all end up shushing me. The world is changing. Sorcha says we can sit around pissing and moaning about it or we can at least try to keep on top of the updates.

Shosh waves my DVD of the 2009 Grand Slam at me. She goes, “Er, do you still want this?” like she might about the throw it in the bin.

And I’m like, “Er, yeah – I might hang on to it for a little bit longer.”

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