‘Dude, it’s a pair of a chinos and a Leinster jersey – it’s not a pair of rollerblades and a focking tutu’

 

Ronan is sitting in the middle of the living room, holding court, with all his friends – Nudger, Gull and the famous Buckets of Blood – gathered around him.

“Here,” Buckets goes, “what’s your man Angel Tia Maria like?”

Ronan’s eyes take on a distant look, like some explorer from the olden days who’s just returned from some colourful and exotic land. I suppose Manchester would be considered that in this part of the world.

“Ine gonna tell you a stordee,” Ronan goes. “Thrue as Ine sitting here. Ine in the thraining growunt and a ball comes bouncing over to me and all’s I hear is, ‘Hey, keek eet back!’”

“And it was this sham, was it?” Buckets goes. “Tia Maria heself?”

“You better believe it was him.”

Nudger goes, “So what did you do, Ro? Something for him to remember you by, what?”

Ro’s there, “Like I says, the ball comes to me and I flicks it up like that – know what Ine saying? – one foot behoyunt the udder, onto the knee, up onto the back of me neck, flicks it up onto the ould head, then I let it throp and bang – sthraight onto he’s foot!”

I’m listening to this, of course, with the horror of a man hearing his son describe the process of cooking crystal meth. There are a lot of south Dublin parents who would sympathise with me when I say I wish it was only that?

“Feer fooks to you,” Buckets goes. “I’d be veddy surproysed if word of that dudn’t get back to the man heself – Louis van Gaddle. He’d a veddy clebbor man. Knows everything going on at the club at all lebbles. You’ll be in the foorst team widdin a year – moy pretiction.”

Ronan smiles and looks down at his fluorescent yellow Nike Hypervenom trainers in an aw-shucks kind of way.

“I’m gonna hit the road,” I go.

All heads turn to me.

Nudger goes, “Good seeing you, Rosser. Here, how’s that rubby team of yoo-ers doing? The Star, is it?”

“The Ster,” I go. “And yeah, no, they’re doing okay,” although I don’t go into specifics, because explaining rugby to this crowd would be as pointless as reading your cor manual into an empty cave.

Ronan walks me to the door, then outside to the cor.

He’s like, “You’ve got your author graphs have you?”

I’m there, “Yeah, no, thanks for getting me these,” even though I haven’t a clue who any of the people are. David de Gea? Juan Mata? I might as well be trying to read graffiti from a moving Luas. “Great story, by the way, about you showing that dude your skills. I really enjoyed it.”

He’s there, “Thanks, Rosser.”

“You seem to have definitely settled in better now. I’m going to have to say fair focks to you here.”

He turns his head away. He can’t look me in the eye. Ronan doesn’t know how to keep secrets from me?

I’m there, “What’s up, Ro?”

He’s, like, silent, for a good 30 seconds, kicking the tyres of my famous Lambo, then he goes, “Ine mizzer dobble.”

He’s trying to say miserable.

We go and sit on his front wall. I reach into my pocket and I pull out the tobacco tin he gave me last summer when he moved to Manchester.

He shakes his head. He’s like, “I caddent go back on them. Rosser. Slipoddy slope.”

I’m there, “One cigarette won’t do you any horm,” which is probably the wrong thing for a father to say to his 16-year-old son, but you’ve got to play the game as you see it.

He takes one of his famous rollies out of the tin and lights it. He takes in a lungful, then lets it out. It’s a definite load off.

I’m there, “So what’s up?”

He goes, “Ine homesick.”

I look around me – I can’t help myself – wondering how could anyone miss this place?

“I miss Shadden, ” he goes. “And Rihanna-Burrogan.”

Shadden moved home with the baby because she couldn’t hack England.

I’m there, “Why don’t you come home?”

“Perride,” he goes. “I doatunt want to feel like I let people dowun.”

I wouldn’t feel let down. Any disappointment I felt at you failing to make it as a professional soccer player would be nothing compared to the devastation I felt when you told me you wanted to be one in the first place. And I genuinely mean that – hand on hort.”

“The boys, then. I doatunt want to disappoint them. They’re living their threams true me – is there a woord vicariously, Rosser?”

“Jesus, don’t ask me, Ro. I’m as thick as a focking tree.”

“They’re counting on me – that’s what Ine throying to say.”

“Dude, it’s your life. All we get is one each. You don’t get to live other people’s lives for them. I mean, my old man wanted me to be a rugby player. Used to stand me out in the gorden in all weathers and fock the Gilbert at me full force. I had eight concussions by the age of 10. I sometimes think that’s where my legendary stupidity comes from.”

He laughs, in fairness to him.

I’m like, “Why don’t I move over?”

He’s there, “What?”

“If you’re homesick. I’ll come over to you. I could get a gaff in Manchester. There’s bound to be nice parts.”

“You’d do that for me?”

“I’d do anything for you, Ro… Jesus.”

He goes quiet again and takes a long draw on his cigarette.

I’m there, “Father Fehily used to say, ‘Keep a place in your heart for the lonely’,” and that’s when I hear a sudden sniffle beside me.

Ronan is wiping away tears with his open palm.

I’m like, “Are you alright?”

He goes, “You doorty looken… Ah, you caught me unaweers, is all.”

I laugh. He hates anyone seeing any sign of weakness in him.

I’m like, “Do you want me to move over, then?”

“I do in me eerse,” he goes. “You’d make a bleaten show of me.”

“I probably would, actually.”

“Turdening up at the thraining growunt in that fooken rubby gear you’re wearton.”

“Dude, it’s a pair of a chinos and a Leinster jersey – it’s not a pair of rollerblades and a focking tutu.”

“Might as well be, Rosser.”

“So you’re saying you definitely don’t want me moving over then?”

“The fact you said you’d moowuv ober is enough – do you get me?”

“Yeah, I get you. Are you going to be okay?”

“Ine gonna see it out – till the summer.”

He stubs his cigarette out on the wall, while I walk back to the cor.

“I’ll see you in a few weeks,” I go.

He’s like, “Yeah, see you, Rosser.”

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