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‘How does this sound? The O’Carroll-Kelly Institute of Rugby!’

‘Why is there no O’Carroll-Kelly building?’ the old man goes, referring to UCD

The old man asks me to meet him in his usual Horseshoe Bor. He says he's got something he wants me to see. When I show up, he's sitting there with Ronan, drinking what was presumably once a lorge brandy. I notice a big roll of paper – it's kind of like a map? – on the table in front of them.

"Kicker!" the old man goes. "Wonderful win for Leinster at the weekend, eh? I imagine you took more than a few notes in that famous strategy book of yours!"

I’m there, “It’s called a Tactics Book,” and then I look at Ronan. “Why has he asked us here?”

Ronan goes, “Ine as in the deerk as you are, Rosser.”


The old man picks up the roll and goes, “Well, chaps, the mystery endeth here! I have here in my hands something that will interest you both. These, Kicker, are orchitectural plans.”

“Let me guess,” I go, quick as a flash, “the old dear is getting her face sandblasted and her forehead lifted three inches?”

The old man continues as if I haven’t said anything at all. “First,” he goes, “a little story by way of an – inverted commas – detour. A few months ago I popped in to UCD to have a spot of lunch with young Ronan here. As it happened, I was rather early – you know how Kennet drives, Ronan! I’m not sure he ever truly left his days as a getaway driver behind him!”

I'm there, "Yeah, can you get to the point of this story?"

“Yes, of course. Well, I was – like I said – 20 minutes or so early, so I took a walk through the campus. The dreaming spires of Belfield and so forth. I was standing in front of the lake, fondly recalling my own famous student days. There, on my right, was O’Reilly Hall – and, on my left, was the O’Brien Centre for Science. And that’s when it happened.”

“Please tell me someone shoved you face-forward into the lake. That would make the drive in here today worthwhile.”

I put my hand up for a high-five but none arrives.

“No,” he goes, “that was when I had one of my famous thoughts, Ross. Don’t you see what I’m saying? Two of the three greatest Irish entrepreneurs of their age have buildings dedicated to them in the country’s lorgest university. There’s an O’Reilly building and an O’Brien building. And, standing there on that sunny, autumn day, the question was suddenly glaringly obvious to me: why is there no O’Carroll-Kelly building?”

I laugh. I’m there, “You can’t be actually serious.”

“Oh, I’m deadly serious, Ross. My philanthropy is not a subject I joke about.”

Ronan goes, “Let’s see the pladdens, Granda.”

The old man opens out his – like he said – orchitectural plans. “It’s 5,000sq m in size, which makes it twice as big as O’Reilly Hall. And at 15 storeys high, it will look down on the O’Brien building just as I have looked down on its benefactor for the past 20 years of my business and political life! Sorry, couldn’t resist that! We will always be jousting partners! So what do you think, chaps?”

I’m there, “Are those stone lions there?”

“Well spotted, Kicker!”

Yeah, no, they’re hord to miss. There’s, like, 30 of them on the roof the building, peering out between the gaps in the turrets. It’s a big, ugly monstrosity of a building.

Ronan goes, “So what’s it going to be, Granda? What’s going into it?”

The old man’s there, “I was thinking quite possibly books.”

“You mean a libroddy?”

“A library, yes – something of that order.”

I’m there, “Why are you even doing this?”

“I’m glad you asked me that,” the old man tries to go. “More than anything, it’s a gesture of gratitude. We all went to UCD, Ross. Three generations of the O’Carroll-Kelly family. It’s my way of saying thank you – and at the same time giving something back.”

I’m like, “You did a port-time certificate course in Taxation Law. I did one year of a sports management course and barely set foot in the place.”

"We still attended, Ross. We are all still, italics, alumni, end italics."

Ronan’s there, “I think it’s great what you’re doing, Granda. Is that a moat around the building?”

The old man goes, “That’s right, Ronan. And there’ll be two drawbridges,” indicating them on the map, “here and here.”

“Ah, it’s the bleaten business, so it is.”

I’m there, “Have you lost your mind, Ro? You do realise this is our inheritance he’s spending, don’t you?”


“How much is this vanity project going to cost? Fifty million? A hundred million?”

The old man goes, “Well, I haven’t quite finalised the costings yet.”

“Ultimately, Ro, however much it costs is however much we’re not going to get when he – no offence – finally falls off the perch.”

“That’s rather horsh, Kicker.”

“Horsh, but true.”

"Because I was hoping to enlist your help – the two of you – in making the O'Carroll-Kelly building a reality. You see, I want it to be our dream. A shared vision, if you will."

Ronan goes, “In what way can we help, Granda?”

“Well, Ronan, obviously I can’t just turn up one day and stort building the thing without permission. There are certain procedures that must be gone through. The first one is that I have to persuade UCD to accept my act of philanthropy.”

I’m there, “Yeah, I think I’ve heard enough. I’m hitting the road.”

The old man goes, “I need your help, Ross – both of you. Look, I want to make some kind of formal presentation to the college, where the three of us – all students, or former students, albeit with academic careers of varying lengths and successes – set out the case for this building.”

I’m like, “Count me out. I’m not standing up and making an orse of myself just so you can satisfy your – let’s be honest – ego.”

He goes, “What if I said the building could used as a rugby academy?”

I suddenly stop, 10ft from the door. I’m there, “What? Say that again?”

He definitely knows what buttons to press with me.

He goes, “How does this sound, Ross? The O’Carroll-Kelly Institute of Rugby!”