‘Gout? What the fock is gout? And please don’t say it’s caused by rugby’
Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: Preparation for Newbridge grudge match isn’t going to plan
So me and the goys are in the Aviva, having a few sensible ones before the match against France, and I’m trying to break the exciting news to them that – yeah, no – we’re going to be replaying the Leinster Schools Senior Cup final from 20 years ago.
In three weeks’ time, we’re going to be taking on the Newbridge College Class of 1999 in what will be – it’s no exaggeration to say – the Battle of the Ages.
At stake will be the winners medals that were taken from us for doping 10 years ago, as well as bragging rights – or, I don’t know, lepping and yarrooing rights for the simple, horse-bothering folk of Newbridge, Co Kildare.
I’m there, 'I didn’t even know you had arthritis,' wondering could I maybe move him from fullback to number eight?
Except every time I go to bring up the subject, either Christian or Oisinn or JP or Fionn says something that makes me feel instantly old, like, “Hey, Ross – I see you’ve got one or two grey hairs there!” or, “I can’t believe Honor is already a teenager – it won’t be long before you’re walking her up the aisle!”
I’m there, “Honor was a teenager the day she was born. And anyone mad enough to marry that girl deserves everything they get.”
“I’m just making the point,” Christian goes, “that those years have gone by so quickly, haven’t they? I can’t be only one of us feeling it.”
I notice that JP is massaging his right knee and pulling a face. “I’ll tell you something,” he goes, “I’m definitely feeling it since I saw that consultant in Vincent’s this week.”
I’m like, “What consultant?”
“Yeah, no, I have to have knee replacement surgery.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa – you’re saying you’re getting an ortificial knee?”
“No, I’m saying I’m getting two ortificial knees. I just can’t live with the arthritis anymore.”
I’m there, “I didn’t even know you had arthritis,” wondering could I maybe move him from fullback to number eight?
“Yeah, no, the cortilage has totally worn away,” he goes. “You know, there are times when I regret ever playing rugby.”
I’m there, “I hope you don’t mean that, Dude,” because suddenly all I can think about is Fr Fehily crying in heaven.
But then Fionn goes, “I know exactly what you mean, JP. I actually blame rugby for my sciatica.”
Listen to Ross
I’m like, “Your what?”
“It’s a compressed spinal nerve root in my lower back,” he tries to go. “There’s days when it takes me an hour to get out of bed.”
While obviously sympathising with the dude, I’m thinking maybe he could still do a job for me if I moved him to loosehead. That’s how much of a competitor I am.
I’m there, “Let’s not rush to judgment here. We don’t know if that was caused by rugby.”
He’s like, “It was caused by rugby. As a matter of fact, I can tell you the exact match. It was against St Michael’s.”
I feel my two fists tighten. I think everyone knows how I feel about St Michael’s, even though I’d consider Dan Leavy a personal friend and, hey, at least they’re not Blackrock.
He goes, “I damaged an intervertebral disc when I was tackled in the air and I fell badly. A doctor told me back then that by the time I reached my 40s I’d probably walk with a stoop.”
I was talking to one of the bormen in The Bridge. He told me you were in there last week, laying down challenges. We just decided to fock with your head
“Well, you’re not in your 40s yet,” I go. “You could still probably play for an hour, could you?”
“Rugby. I’m talking about – what’s the word? – hyperthetically?”
He laughs. He’s like, “I think my rugby days are well behind me, Ross!”
Oisinn goes, “I’ll get another round in before we head for our seats,” and I watch him stort making his way to the bor.
I’m like, “Wait a minute – why are you limping?”
“Gout,” he goes.
I’m like, “Gout? What the fock is gout? And please don’t say it’s caused by rugby.”
He’s there, “No, it’s diet-related. It’s brought on by elevated levels of uric acid in the blood, which causes arthritic pain in the smaller bones of the feet. It comes and goes. But when it flares up, I’m in agony with it. Like now.”
I’m there, “I don’t believe this,” but at the same time – being a glass-half-full kind of goy – I’m thinking, okay, I’ve known quite a few tightheads in my time who couldn’t run. I could throw him in there and see how long he lasts.
Christian goes, “I think we all have to accept, Ross, that we’re getting on in years,” and then – unbelievably – he pulls a pair of glasses out of his pocket, puts them on and goes, “Is that Keith Wood over there?”
It’s not. It’s a woman my old dear used to play golf with.
I’m there, “When did you stort wearing glasses?”
“It was just after I mistook another woman for my wife in Dunnes Stores in Cornelscourt,” he goes. “I was walking behind her for 20 minutes, making smalltalk and dropping various food items into the trolley before I realised it was just some random woman who had similar hair.”
“Glasses?” I go. “Oh, well, that’s that then! And here I was building up to tell you that I ran into the Newbridge College Class of 1999 in Ballsbridge last week and I challenged them to a–.”
It’s JP who ends up breaking first. He cracks his hole laughing, then, one by one, the rest of them do the same.
I’m there, “You already know, don’t you?”
Oisinn goes, “I was talking to one of the bormen in The Bridge. He told me you were in there last week, laying down challenges. We just decided to fock with your head.”
“So you don’t have gout? And you don’t need two new knees? And you don’t have sciatica? And you don’t need those stupid glasses?”
Fionn goes, “Er, yes, we do, Ross. All that stuff was true. But we’ll play anyway. I mean, it’s just a friendly knockabout, isn’t it?”
I’m there, “Exactly, Dude! A bit of fun!” and at the same time I’m thinking about the weights and fitness programme I’ve drawn up for them in the back of my Rugby Tactics Book.
“It’s not like it’s the most important match of our lives or anything.”
It is, by the way. Let no one be in any doubt about that. It literally is.