'You can even hear the whispers of, “Rugby? Did he say the Institute now has, like, a rugby team?”’
The canteen in the Institute is rammers and yet I spot Eugene Cowser straight away, sitting at a table on the far side – fat head, quiff, biceps bursting out of his blue Apple Crumble polo shirt. He reminds me so much of myself at his age, it makes me want to weep.
He’s playing – of all things – chess with this skinny little dude with curly hair and glasses. That makes we want to weep as well.
When I walk up to their table, the glasses dude is going, “The physics paper this year was very mathematics-heavy. I genuinely don’t think that’s going to happen again.”
I stand over their chessboard – seriously? – until the glasses dude looks up at me and I go, “Hit the bricks, Four Eyes. I want to have a word with your friend here.”
He goes, “Why should I move? We’re in the middle of a game here.”
I grab his specs off his face and I throw them over my shoulder. I’m like, “Because your glasses are over there, that’s why.”
I left school a decade-and-a-half ago – it’s amazing how quickly it all comes back to you.
He stands up and calls me one or two names – which I refuse to respond to, being the bigger man – then off he trots to get his glasses.
I notice Eugene staring at the rugby ball and the rolled-up posters in my hands. He’s like, “Who are you?”
I laugh. I’m like, “Okay, if that’s the way we’re going to play it. I’m Ross O’Carroll-Kelly – as if you didn’t know.”
“Never heard of you.”
“You’re hurt. You’re lashing out. I get it.”
He goes, “Whatever. Like
Deasmumhnach said, we’re in the middle of a game here.”
I suddenly take the rugby ball and I slam it down right in the centre of the chessboard, sending chess pieces flying everywhere. It’s genuinely like something from a movie, in fairness to me. I go, “Do you recognise this?”
He sighs. He literally sighs.
I’m there, “It’s called a rugby ball. You used to know what it was for – that’s according to people who saw you in your prime.”
He goes, “That part of my life is over now. All I’m interested in is getting a good Leaving Cert.”
I laugh. I’m there, “What’s the point of that?”
He goes, “You mean what’s the point of education?”
“Exactly. There’s fock-all out there for you when you leave school and a million points in your Leaving isn’t going to change that basic fact. There’s not going to be any jobs – but there’s always going to be rugby.”
This is me at my definite best – inspiring the youth. I could easily have been a teacher if I’d had a brain.
He goes, “I’ve no interest in that game anymore.”
And I’m like, “That’s a shame. Because I’m about to stick a couple of dozen of these posters up around the school.”