‘I don’t think your form at the minute is good enough’
On getting the call: ‘When it rang I had a look at the name. Declan Kidney. Fuck it. Ignored it. Deccie obviously wasn’t ringing me to tell me I was captain against France’
I remember the day vividly. It was lunchtime on Sunday, March 3rd, 2013. Myself, Jessica and the four kids went to Luigi Malone’s for pizza and ice cream.
We had tickets booked for The Gruffalo’s Child in the Cork Opera House at three that afternoon so we headed over there. The Gruffalo’s Child will never be the same again.
I was relaxed in my own head. I wasn’t expecting a call because the Munster game against the Ospreys the night before had gone quite well from a personal point of view, and I’d just needed to show that.
My gear was still in Carton House outside of Dublin where the Irish squad had been based for the Six Nations. In fact, as I write these words, over seven weeks later, it’s still there.
I was due in Carton House that night so my day was revolving around that. I was going to travel with Donncha O’Callaghan, as always. I don’t remember whose turn it was to drive but we collect each other around six o’clock to be up there for around 9.30, so I had plenty of time.
Because of where we were, I had the phone on vibrate in my pocket. When it rang I had a look at the name. Declan Kidney. Fuck it. Ignored it.
Deccie obviously wasn’t ringing me to tell me I was captain against France the following Saturday at the Aviva.
About halfway through The Gruffalo’s Child I took JJ to the toilet and the phone went again. I was going to answer it but that wasn’t the time or place so I just let it ring.
After we walked out to the car, which was parked about 200 metres from the Opera House, I rang him back.
I said, “Howya.”
He said: “I need to meet up with you. I need to speak with you.”
“OK, yeah, grand, no hassle. I’m not around though, Dec. I’ve just left the Opera House with the family.”
“When will you be finished there and I’ll meet you?”
Sometimes the management stay in Carton House because they’re so busy, but Deccie was in Cork.
He bent over backwards to try and meet me but I just said, “Deccie, it doesn’t make any difference to me what you say to me, whether it’s over the phone or to my face, I’m not going to look upon you any less as a man. It’s obvious you’ve something to say.”
I’ve learned over the years that the key with Deccie is not to speak too much because that’s what he loves. He’s happy to leave 40-second silences on the phone if you let him.
He said: “No, I can’t do this over the phone.”
“Well sure it’s not good news so, Deccie. I’m not fucking stupid. I realise what’s going on.”
He was humming and hawing, and kept trying to arrange a meeting; it felt like he was having difficulty holding back his emotions.
I was obviously feeling hugely disappointed because I thought I’d weathered the storm with the game against the Ospreys, but he just said to me, “I don’t have a place for you this weekend”.
“OK,” I said. “That’s all right.”
“Do you want to ask me anything about it?”