‘I asked the consultant to consider telling my son that rugby is the work of the devil’

I hung up from the call, rolling my eyes. ‘He’s so overprotective,’ I thought. ‘It’s only a sport’

My phone is like an extension of my arm. I use it for work, social, and doom scrolling purposes meaning I lose far too much time to it, but on the plus side can generally also be contacted easily enough in the case of an emergency.

So it should come as no surprise that, a bit like the watched pot that never boils, emergencies never happen when I’m by the phone, preferring instead to wait until I’m in a radio studio and about to go on air and have switched said phone to airplane mode – or occasions such as those.

And so the other week when I was in a radio studio, about to go on air, with the phone safely switched to airplane mode for the duration, a call came in to tell me . . . well actually that’s the thing, I couldn’t quite make out what the message said as it was strangely scrambled and the only words I could decipher were “injured” and “collected”.

My money was on the call relating to the middle child, who much to my horror has taken up rugby recently and is loving it. As I waved him off to school that morning I had a sense of foreboding that this dude would not return home to me in the same condition as he left. And it was the hangover of that sense of foreboding which sent me in the direction of his school while I continued to try and make contact with them.


Sure enough, he had banjaxed his leg. Ibuprofen and some ice should do the trick, the first aiders on site had reckoned. Emergency surgery and a full leg brace for at least six weeks, followed by physio and rehab was the hospital consultant’s assessment. So he’s still on crutches and out of sports for the foreseeable. “One of only 17 people to ever have this injury”, he informs everyone who asks. Sure if you’re going to get injured, you might as well get injured in style.

Anyhow, I asked the consultant to consider telling my son that rugby is the work of the devil and really he shouldn’t play it anymore. Somehow, the consultant interpreted my request to mean him telling my son that rugby is in fact a great game and there’s always next season.

So it looks like it’s down to me now to do my own dirty work.

I was all ready to lay down the law about alcohol, drugs, going out and all the other stuff that we have to do as parents. Those conversations were had well in advance and have been had repeatedly throughout the teenage years. But sports – well now that’s a much trickier one altogether and not one I was anticipating. Sure sports is just having the craic, right?

I have six sons – parenting that many boys is an extreme sport in itself. Stitches, broken bones, chipped teeth, concussions, cuts, bruises, black eyes, lumps, ostrich egg-sized bumps, you name it we’ve had it – and have it – during any given week here. And all innocently acquired having the craic in its many different forms. I see my parents, who raised all girls, look on in horror as my superheroes pursue each other in the back garden. “Be grand”, I reassure them, “just look away”, I add before roaring out the back “put the boxing gloves down and get off your brother”!

And in fairness it usually is grand. Mishaps can happen anywhere – at the playground, in the school yard, running around the house. But the rugby accident and its severity – well it’s made me nervous.

Problem is it’s the second sport in our house that I’ve raised objections to. I won’t even entertain the notion of boxing for one superhero loving dude who has repeatedly asked to be allowed do it. He senses a weakness in the Force, in the shape of his father, but I am resolute.

Herself, never caused me these dilemmas. She wasn’t a huge sports fan, and those she did engage in were comparatively tame.

I am apparently “so overprotective” or so I’ve been told over the course of raising teens who tried to pull the wool over my eyes. For the younger children it’s considered a fair retort to me not allowing situations which might put them in mortal danger, but . . . I’m learning to live with it.

My dad phoned to see how the one in the leg brace was getting on. “Bored and frustrated at not being able to get out with his friends and back to his sports, but grand otherwise,” I replied. “Well keep him away from rugby,” said my dad. “He’ll get broken up.”

I hung up from the call, rolling my eyes. “He’s so overprotective”, I thought. “I mean it’s only a sport”.