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‘Dad, you can shove your offer. I’m going to sit the Leaving Cert’

The Rossmeister prepares for a third crack at the exams with Honor’s home-schooling

Sorcha sometimes has that nightmare – you may have had it yourselves – where she's about to sit an exam and she realises she hasn't studied for it and can't answer a single question. Well, for me, that was the actual Leaving Cert.

The second time I failed the thing, my old man – who’s always seen me as some kind of misunderstood genius – decided to, like, appeal my grades. This resulted in me having my F’s in Art and English – my best results – downgraded, to give me a perfect royal flush of NG’s.

He then took the fight to the High Court, who ruled in O'Carroll-Kelly versus The Deportment of Education (2001) that he didn't have the right to compel the men and women who morked my papers to justify my grades in open court. This was followed by several unsuccessful appeals to the Supreme Court (2004, 2005 and 2008) and the European Court for Human Rights (2010) before he gave up on the world ever recognising my brilliance – "This is how they treated Galileo, Messieurs les juges!" – at some point around my 30th birthday.

But this, basically, lockdown has got me dreaming all sorts of crazy dreams about re-sitting the thing and this time actually passing it. Honor has spent the last six weeks home-schooling her old man, preparing the Rossmeister for a third crack at the famous Leaving Cert.


Could I have, like, maximum points?

The girl has, like, a genuine gift for teaching. I’d actually encourage her to follow that path if she hadn’t already told me that she has no intention of ever working and expects me to put her on a weekly wage for doing nothing, like my old man did for me.

But, like I said, she’s a natural.

“Okay,” she goes, sitting down next to me at the kitchen table, “take out your Biology book.”

I'm like, 'Biology? Am I even doing Biology?"

“Do you not remember yesterday when we learned about the human skeleton?”

“Was that, like, Biology?”

“What did you think it was?”

“I didn’t know what heading it came under. I actually thought it was just an interesting chat.”

“The book with the red cover. Okay, can you remember the names of the bones we learned yesterday?”

She points to her upper orm.

She’s like, “What’s this one called? Do you remember?”

I’m there, “I was on the senior rugby team.”

“Dad, you can’t keep using that as excuse!”

“Sorry, Honor, force of habit. Em . . .”

“You laughed when you heard the name.”

“Is it the humerus!”

“Very good! Now what about this one – in the foreorm?”

“Why don’t we make it multiple choice?”

"It's not Who Wants to Be a focking Millionaire? It's the Leaving Cert, Dad! Come on, you know this!"

"Okay, it sounds wrong? But is it, like, the radius?"


“And the one next to it is the ulna, because I broke it in three places in a friendly against Cistercian back in the day.”

“You see? You know stuff!”

I’m like, “Three out of three. That’s, like, maximum points.”

“Well, yeah,” she goes, “if the Leaving Cert was decided by three questions about the bones of the upper and lower orm, you would have maximum points.”

“I’m texting Fionn the second home-school is over. Although I’ll probably have forgotten everything by then.”

“Why do you always do that?”


"Like, run yourself down? Dad, you're not nearly as thick as you think. All you actually lack is – believe it or not – confidence."

It’s at that point that the old man steps into the kitchen.

He goes, “What on Earth are you doing, Kicker? Is that a book in front of you?”

I’m there, “Yeah, no, Honor’s home-schooling me. She thinks I could be ready to re-sit the Leaving Cert next year.”

“Don’t bother!” he goes. “It’s all in hand!”

I’m like, “What do you mean?”

He's there, "You're going to sit the Leaving Cert this year, Kicker!"

Honor's there, "Er, there's no Leaving Cert this year? It's been, like, cancelled?"

"I've had a word with Brother Ignatius!" he goes. "He's the Sixth Year form head at Castlerock! And he's agreed to give you predictive grades!"

I’m like, “What are they?”

“They are the means by which students will be assessed this year – based on their performance throughout the school year!”

Honor's there, "But he hasn't been going to school."

Two people have believed in me in my life

“A technicality,” the old man goes, “that Brother Ignatius is prepared to overlook in this instance!”

Honor’s there, “Oh my God, you bribed him!” sounding weirdly surprised by this development.

“I did nothing of the sort!” the old man goes. “I simply pointed out to him that I am the biggest donor to the school and that my annual contribution is under constant review!”

Honor turns to me.

She’s like, “Dad, tell him no.”

I’m there, “Honor, he’s offering me the chance to finally pass the Leaving Cert in return for doing – and correct me if I’m wrong here – fock-all.”

"You're absolutely right, Ross! Justice served at last! You see, as I've told many, many judges over the years – both here and in Strasbourg – your problem, Kicker, was that you had the kind of intelligence that these so-called examiners aren't sufficiently skilled to understand! All Brother Ignatius is doing is correcting an historical wrong!"

I’m there, “Could I have, like, maximum points?”

“I don’t see why not!” he goes. “I’ve bloody well paid for it!”

But suddenly, I notice Honor staring at me with a look of, like, disappointment on her face. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that I’ve offered her 50Ks if she can teach me enough to pass the thing.

She goes, “Dad, which would you prefer – getting maximum points, knowing you didn’t deserve them? Or scraping a pass, knowing that you did it all yourself?”

I’m there, “Honor, do you genuinely believe I’m capable of scraping a pass?”

She’s like, “For once in your life, give yourself some focking credit, Dad. You’re not nearly as thick as you think you are.”

Two people have believed in me in my life. One was Father Denis Fehily, my old schools rugby coach. The other is this 13-year-old girl who's opening my Biology book for me and looking at me with pleading eyes.

I’m there, “Dad, you can shove your offer. I’m going to sit the Leaving Cert. And I’m going to pass it.”