Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: The old man is a focking embarrassment at rugby matches

Okay, it turns out I can hurt my old man’s feelings

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

The old man is on the phone, shouting at me in his usual all-caps voice. He’s like, “How are you feeling about tomorrow, Kicker? The – inverted commas – Drive for Five! I see your old pal Ronan O’Gara’s been throwing some spice into the mix! Oderint dum metuant! Exclamation mork! Exclamation mork! Exclamation mork!”

I decide to just come out and say it. I’m like, “Dude, I’m not going to the match with you.”

There’s, like, five seconds of silence, then he goes, “Why on earth not?”

I don’t know what way to answer that question. I can’t hurt my old man’s feelings.


“Because,” I go, “you’re a focking embarrassment.”

Okay, it turns out I can hurt my old man’s feelings.

“An embarrassment?” he goes. “In what way, Ross?”

They’re like, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to have to listen to this tool for the afternoon.’ The exact same thing that I’m thinking, by the way

I’m there, “Well, your big foghorn voice for storters. The way you shout random stuff like, ‘Stealth, Leinster! Stealth!’ Your bullshit opinions on the game. The focking Latin. Oh my God, the focking Latin.”

He’s hurt. There’s no doubt about it. He goes, “I was, em, rather of the opinion that you liked going to matches with me – just like I enjoyed going with my old dad!”

I’m like, “Dude, no one likes sitting near you. Have you never noticed people rolling their eyes when they see you coming. They’re like, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to have to listen to this tool for the afternoon.’ The exact same thing that I’m thinking, by the way.”

Again, there’s, like, silence. Then he goes, “But you and I have been to the last, what, three finals that Leinster have been involved in!”

I’m there, “Yeah, and you ruined all three of them for me. Shouting at Leo Cullen after we lost to Sarries that the man sitting next to you knew more about the game of rugby than he did and he’d be well-advised to add him to the coaching ticket if Leinster are to ever win a fifth European Cup.”

“I meant you, Kicker!”

“I know you meant me. That’s why I’m saying you embarrassed me. Then last year – er, how many times were you told to sit down and shut the fock up? Plus, I’m just thinking here, we lost the last two finals, so you’re also a focking jinx.”

“I see!” he goes, unable to hide his disappointment. “So who are you going with?”

I’m there, “JP has a ticket for me – not that it’s any of your business.”

“Oh, well,” he tries to go. “Homo sum humani a me nihil alienum puto – as they say in the language of Ancient Rome!”

I hang up on him, then I’m thinking, ‘That was a hell of a lot easier than I thought it was going to be?’ As a matter of fact, I’m considering ringing him back to tell him more things about him that piss me off when my phone all of a sudden beeps.

Yeah, no, it’s a text message from JP – telling me that he can’t get tickets for the match after all.

He’s there, “Sorry to let you down, Dude. The things are rarer than rocking horse shit this year.”

“Fock,” I go, then I end up having to ring the old man back.

I’m like, “Dude, that thing you said about me and you going to matches together just like you and your old man went – it really got me in the old feels. So – yeah, no – I’ve decided I’m going to accept the ticket after all.”

He goes, “I’m sorry, Kicker. Alea iacta est!

I’m there, “What? Talk English, you knob.”

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly holds a rugby ball. Illustration: Alan Clarke.

He’s like, “I’ve just this minute promised it to Mr Hennessy Coghlan-O’Hara BL! We’re in the Horseshoe Bor, Ross!”

“Yeah, thanks a focking bunch,” I go. “So much for tradition. You’re dead to me,” and I hang up on him.

Sorcha just so happens to walk into the bedroom and hear the tail end of this conversation. She’s like, “What happened?” and I tell her that Leinster are playing La Rochelle tomorrow and their number one supporter – who’s followed the team through, sometimes, thick and thin? – doesn’t have an actual ticket.

And that’s when she says the most unbelievable thing. She goes, “My dad has tickets.”

I’m there, “What? He wouldn’t know a rugby ball if he passed one through his urinary tract.”

“He got them from a client,” she goes. “I don’t think he’s that interested in going actually.”

“Waste of a focking ticket if he did. Could you, like, ask him if I could have them?”

“Why don’t you ask him yourself? He’s downstairs.”

‘Oh my God,’ Sorcha goes, ‘you’re not chatting him up, Ross. Dad, can he have your tickets to the match?’ The dude smiles – loving it

“I don’t know how to talk to your old man. He hates me and I hate him.”

“He doesn’t hate you, Ross. Why don’t you just try being nice to him for once?”

“I literally can’t, Sorcha.”

“Then it sounds like you’re watching it on TV.”

I think, ‘Fock it. I’ll give it a go.’

I’m there, “Where is the tosser?”

“Be nice to him,” she goes. “You can be chorming, Ross.”

She’s right. I can be. The only problem is that I’ve only ever used my chorm on women who I want to sleep with?

But downstairs to the kitchen I trot. The dude is sitting at the table, drinking out of my famous “Ster Crazy After All These Years” mug, although I’m not petty enough to mention it.

I just go, “How the hell are you? You’re looking well.”

He looks at me, then Sorcha.

“What’s wrong with him?” he goes. “Why is he talking like that?”

I’m there, “Where do you tend to do your socialising?”

“Oh my God,” Sorcha goes, “you’re not chatting him up, Ross. Dad, can he have your tickets to the match?”

The dude smiles – loving it. He’s there, “Of course he can – if he asks nicely.”

I’m there, “Can I have your tickets?”

“Ask again,” he goes, “but this time use the P word.”

I’m there, “Can I have your tickets, p… p… p… p… pri–”

“No, not that P word,” he goes.

Sorcha’s there, “Please, Ross. Just say please.”

I’m there, “I’m trying. P… P… P…”

Sorcha’s like, “Go on, Ross, you can do it.”

I’m there, “P… P… P…”

And that’s when my phone suddenly beeps again. It’s a text from my old man. He’s like, “Hennessy’s agreed to give you his ticket! See you tomorrow! Ex gratia, ad victoriam!

I look at Sorcha’s old man and I laugh. I’m there, “Oh my God, that was so close. And that’s my focking mug, by the way.”

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