‘I know it’s not a politically correct point of view to hold but we are very much anti-GAA marriage’
The old man is full of himself these days. He honestly hasn’t stopped smiling since Seán Fitzpatrick’s acquittal. They go, like, way back of course – sworn enemies on the rugby field, sworn allies in the rugby bor. I know it’s a cliché, roysh, but what an actual sport! When Seánie stood outside the Four Courts and said he wanted to thank two friends in particular for standing by him, well, the only question among my old man’s social circle was, “I wonder who the second dude was?”
The old man was still on a high from his little mench when I saw him outside the RDS last weekend, handing out local and European election leaflets before the Treviso match. He was talking to JP’s old man, telling him that when Ireland finally wises up and leaves the euro, he will be campaigning to have Seánie’s face put on the new £50 note.
“Proper order,” JP’s old man went. “It’s the least this country owes him.”
I tried to slip past them. The old man looked an embarrassment in his camel hair coat, that hat he insists on wearing to rugby matches and an enormous rosette with the words ‘New Republic’ on it. Except he ended up spotting me.
He was like, “There he is! The man who revolutionised the role of the number 10 in the modern game of rugby! Mister Ross O’Carroll-Kelly Esquire!”
I ended up stopping, because I’m a sucker for a compliment.
“Yeah, no,” I went, “I’d like to think I did revolutionise it? You ask the likes of Johnny Sexton, even Mads, if they’d be the players they are today if there’d never been a Ross O’Carroll-Kelly – I think we all know what their answer would be.”
He was like, “Precisely!”
JP’s old man saw his opportunity and slipped off, leaving me stuck with him. The old man clapped his two big bear paws together and went, “God, these are exciting days, are they not? I trust you, with your famous nose, can smell it, Kicker?”
I looked at him blankly. The only thing I could smell was Courvoisier off his breath.
He was like, “Ireland is coming back, Ross! As a nation! As an economy! As a people! We’re smiling again! Look around you!”
I looked around me. “It’s Good Friday,” I went. “Most of these people are half shit-faced.”
“That’s not alcohol, Ross. That’s optimism. I recognise it from 1996. It’s starting all over again. The economy is picking up. They’re saying the property market is doing so well, there could be another major crash within the next decade. Now, if you’d predicted that five years ago, people would have called you a hopeless romantic.”
I was like, “Yeah, no, whatever,” and I went to walk away. I like to be in my seat at least five minutes before kick-off as a mork of respect to the players.
He went, “But do you know, Ross, what question keeps coming up time and time again on the doorsteps of south Dublin?”
I just shrugged. I was like, “If I took off my shoe right now, could I beat this man to death with it and claim it was, like, reasonable force?”
“Er, no. Well, once or twice, something of that colour has come up. No, the big issue, certainly from a, em, micro-political point of view – quote-unquote – is this ground-sharing arrangement between Blackrock College Rugby Football Club and – oh, what’s this funny thing they call themselves? – Cuala GAA club?”
I was like, “I’ve no real issue with Gaelic football,” which might have been the drink talking. “I said it to Ronan – if they changed the shape of the ball, replaced goals with tries and abolished the forward pass, it’d be about 80 per cent of the way towards being a half-decent sport.”
“That may be so, Ross, but the idea one of these Gaelic sports outfits occupying – and that’s the word that people are very much using – a rugby club with the proud history and tradition of Blackrock, well, it hasn’t gone down well. As far as the voters of south Dublin are concerned, Stradbrook is very much our Golan Heights.”
“What the fock are the Golan Heights?”
He laughed. He was like, “I should have known if I used a metaphor relating to the Middle East, you’d come up with something wittily elliptical by way of response. You really should be on some of these TV panel shows, Ross. Vincent Browne and what-not. I’ve said that to Hennessy a dozen times. No, the point I’m making is that people are looking at Blackrock and they’re thinking, if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere.”
“I’d hate to think that was true.”
“Well, they’re selling cider in the bar of Stradbrook now – on bloody well draught! I have that on good authority. From a chap who was there when they put the tap in.”
“It’s the thin end of the wedge, Ross. Mark my words, it won’t be long before there’s bodhrans in that bar and everyone’s singing Twenty Men From Dublin Town .”
“Is there, like, any way to stop it?”
“Well, let’s just say that we’ve made the issue a central plank in our local election campaign. I know it’s not a politically correct point of view to hold, Ross, but we are very much anti-GAA marriage.”
“God, I’d hope so. I mean, it’s not natural, is it?”
“Well, this is the debate I’ve been engaged in on the doorsteps of everywhere from Waltham Terrace to Carysfort Avenue. New Republic believes it isn’t discrimination to treat different situations in different ways. Everyone in a caring, dependent relationship deserves protection – including GAA people. But the relationship between a man and a rugby club is unique. And it’s only by recognising this essential difference that we can safeguard our most important social institution.”
“That’s pretty inspirational alright.”
“Hennessy’s on the case as well, Ross. We’ve set up a lobby group – out of that office building he owns near Blackrock Dart Station. We’re calling it The Idrone Institute. And you’re going to be hearing quite a lot from us.”
ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE