Subscriber OnlyRoss O'Carroll-Kelly

Three European Cups, three Six Nations, one Grand Slam – but never winning a Leinster Schools Senior Cup clearly still rankles Heaslip

On Sunday, it will be 25 years to the day since I led Castlerock College to victory, but where are the goys?

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Ross O'Carroll-Kelly at the bar. Illustration: Alan Clarke.

I’m the first to arrive. I order a pint of the obvious and I do a quick circuit of the place. There’s no one here yet, even though I said eight o’clock and it’s quarter-past already. Fr Fehily wouldn’t have put up with that. What was it he used to say? Better three hours too early than a minute too late?

The Bridge is rammers tonight and I’m thinking it’s possible I missed them, so I do a second circuit of the place, but – yeah, no – it’s definitely just me. And now I’m totally paranoid, wondering did I definitely say tonight? But then I remember that I did. The night before Ireland play Scotland is what I told them.

It’s a special weekend. On Sunday, it will be 25 years to the day since I led Castlerock College to victory in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup, which is why I decided to arrange a bit of a reunion tonight. I thought, what better way to mork the occasion than to get all of the goys together to talk about old times?

I have with me a folder full of newspaper clippings about our exploits – although mostly mine. I also have the full final on DVD and I’m going to ask Jamie Heaslip to throw it on later, although he’ll probably say no, given that it was Newbridge College that we beat in the final.


Sorry, where is everyone?

I put my folder down on the bor, open it and stort pulling out some of the orticles, which my old man cut out of the Times and the Indo back in the day. Gerry Thornley talking about my one-man demolition job of Blackrock College. Tony Ward writing about my scintillating – his word – display against Terenure College and telling his readers that they were going to be hearing a lot more about me in the future. Which still gives me goosebumps, even though it turned out to be horseshit – I was never heard of again.

One or two of them – if you can believe this – said they had zero interest in rugby now

“Have you brought your old clippings in again, Ross?” a voice goes.

I look up and it’s Heaslip. He’s standing behind the bor, pulling a pint.

I’m there, “Yeah, no, we’re having a bit of get-together tonight – the Castlerock College Class of 1999”, and I show him Thornley’s report on the final with a photograph of me holding aloft the famous soup tureen while Mary McAleese looks on.

“I’ve seen it before,” he goes.

Yeah, no, I’ve had the folder in the pub more than once.

I’m there, “Dude, when the goys get here, is there any chance I could throw on the DVD of – ?”

He goes, “No – there’s no chance.”

I told you. Three European Cups, three Six Nations, one Grand Slam, one Try of the Decade and twice a Lion – but never winning a Leinster Schools Senior Cup clearly still rankles.

Seriously, where the fock is everyone? It’s, like, half-eight now and there’s still no sign of them. And that’s when I stort to remember the reaction when I did the ring-around a week ago. Most of them had no idea that the 25th anniversary was even coming up. One or two of them – if you can believe this – said they had zero interest in rugby now. Three or four others said they lived in Australia or Abu Dhabi or the States now, and it wasn’t the kind of thing they’d consider coming home for.

Even JP – who was probably the best full-back in the country back in the day – went, “Is it really something that you consider worth celebrating?” and the sense that I got from him – and from a few of the others – was that our achievement somehow means nothing just because we had to give our medals back for doping.

I order another pint. Half-eight turns to nine o’clock, then nine o’clock to half-nine, and I’m still standing here on my Tobler. That’s when the penny finally drops that no one else is coming and I decide to hit the road. I still have some pride?

Let’s be honest here – I carried the rest of you. And you were the biggest passenger of all

I step outside the pub and I whip out my phone and ring JP. It goes straight to voicemail. I leave him a message and it’s a real stinker.

I’m like, “Whatever happened to ‘Castlerock boys are we, there is nothing that we fear, bold and courageous we morch, danger will never faze us’? Do those words mean nothing to you now? Clearly not. Because if they did, then you’d be here.”

I actually think I’m a bit jorred.

I’m there, “Poor Fr Fehily would be rotating in his grave if he saw the turnout tonight. Actually, there was no turnout. I was it. The only member of the famous Castlerock College one-in-a-row team who thinks it’s worth celebrating the quarter-century anniversary. You’re a focking disgrace and you’re not worthy of the graduation ring that you wear on your finger.”

I think it’s a combination of knocking back four pints in quick succession and the cold night air, but I’m suddenly on a roll.

I’m there, “You were always jealous of me. And I’m not just talking about you. I’m talking about all the goys. You couldn’t stand it that I was the one who always got the headlines. You couldn’t bear it that I was the one that Wardy predicted great things for in the game. Let’s be honest here – I carried the rest of you. And you were the biggest passenger of all.”

All of a sudden, my phone storts beeping. I take it away from my ear and – yeah, no – it’s a call from JP. So I kill the call to his voicemail and I answer.

He goes, “Dude, where are you?”

I’m there, “I could ask you the same focking question.”

“Dude, we’re all here – there’s, like, 17 of us.”

“I’ve just walked out of The Bridge and there’s no sign of you.”

“You said we were meeting in the Wicked Wolf.”

Fock, I did say the Wicked Wolf – for old time’s sake.

I’m there, “Er, bit of a communication mix-up. I’m on my way. Do yourself a favour, dude – maybe don’t listen to that voice message I just left you.”

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