I’m remembering Fr Fehily hyped up to fever pitch after listening to his Hitler 45s
Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: Irregordless, I do have my own – let’s say – ‘motivational’ qualities
‘Twas you,’ he goes. ‘Or a fool very like you!’ I’m there, “That’s a very serious allegation to make.”
I’m looking at them now. They’re all a bit fuller in the waist and greyer in the locks than when I saw them last.
One or two look like they should be, I don’t know, closing an acquisition rather than playing actual rugby. But 20 years ago this week, I led Castlerock College to victory in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup final and these 14 goys were my supporting cast.
Yeah, no, it’s good to see them again.
It’s also good to be back at Castlerock.
We’re using Pitch A to train this afternoon – and, it has to be said, a lot of memories are coming flooding back to me. I’m remembering Fr Fehily standing on the sideline, hyped up to fever pitch after spending the morning listening to his famous Hitler 45s, shouting, “He alone who owns the youth gains the future! Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Rock!”
Heady times. Unfortunately, I don’t have Fr Fehily’s command of German or his record collection. But I do have my own – let’s just say – motivational qualities?
I have the goys all lined up in front of me, the same way we lined up when we were presented to the school before each and every match – chins in the air, orms by our sides, we’re talking parade ground-style.
I’m, like, walking along the line, going, “20 years ago this week, we did something that was truly historic/historical. We became the first team from Castlerock College to win the Leinster Schools Senior Cup.”
I’m expecting a cheer but there isn’t one. I carry on, irregordless.
I’m there, “10 years ago, our name was removed from the trophy and replaced with – I can barely bring myself to say the words – Newbridge College. Our medals were taken from us and put into hands that were made for birthing calves and changing the gears on a combine harvester. But, thankfully, history has given us a chance to correct that terrible, terrible injustice.”
One of our goys laughs. It ends up being Shane Greaves, aka Big Portions, the loosehead on the team of 1999. I’m there, “Sorry, did I say something funny, Big Portions?”
“Yeah,” he goes, “what’s with the whole Bravehort routine? The impression I got when you rang was that we were playing this match for a laugh.”
I’m there, “I told you on the phone that it was the biggest day of all of our lives.”
“Maybe that’s why I thought you were joking.”
Listen to Ross
“When have you ever heard me joke about rugby?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen you since we all re-sat the Leaving Cert together.”
“The answer is never. The reason we’re playing this match is to right a wrong. When my daughter comes to me and asks me to tell her the story of the Castlerock College Dream Team of 1999 – obviously, not literally – I can’t even look her in the eye. Again, not literally. That’s why we’re doing this!”
“Could we maybe do it for charity?” someone else asks – it’s Edser Ryan, our number eight.
I’m like, “charity?” and I’m just, like, glowering at him.
He’s there, “Yeah, we could chorge people in to see the match and give the money to, I don’t know, whoever needs money these days.”
I just shake my head.
I’m like, “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that. Okay, the way this is going to work is that I’m going to take the backs for training and Oisinn is going to take the forwards.
“Okay, goys, let’s train – and let’s train well!”
I clap my two hands together. I am seriously, seriously pumped? But unfortunately I end up being the only one.
There’s a definite lack of seriousness among the goys and it’s pretty obvious to me that most of them haven’t had a rugby ball in their hands since that famous day at Lansdowne Road.
They’re, like, dropping it. They’re knocking it on. They’re passing it forward. Even Christian – who very nearly made the Ireland schools team at outside-centre – is handling the ball like it’s something he’s just pulled from a hot oven.
Oisinn, by the way, is having exactly the same problem with the forwards. Half of them can’t even bend down to form a scrum.
And every ten seconds, they’re stopping to have a little catch-up, chatting away about their careers and their families and whatever happened to this person and whatever happened to that person?
But, like I said, I have my own way of motivating people.
We’ve been training for, like, half an hour when I see the red Ford Cortina pull up at the side of the pitch. Behind the wheel is Pad Mór, the fullback on the Newbridge team from twenty years ago. In the front passenger seat is Micil Óg, one of the second rows, with a bunch of other Kildare randomers in the back.
Out of the window, Pad Mór shouts, “There you are, you blaggard – cocked up in your posture!” and it’s pretty obvious that he’s talking to me. “Oh, the speaker never said a truer word than when he said, ‘Tis when the cat’s out that the mice do dance!’ ”
I’m there, “Sorry, have you got a problem, Dude?”
“Oh, indeed and indeed I have a problem. For last night, some useless gawk of a lad, with a heart as black as a bailiff’s conscience, did use petrol and matches to burn into the Newbridge College pitch the words, ‘Castlerock Uber Alles’!”
“And you’re accusing me, are you?”
“Twas you,” he goes. “Or a fool very like you!”
I’m there, “That’s a very serious allegation to make.”
It was me, by the way – although that won’t stop him getting one of Hennessy Coghlan O’Hara’s cease and desist letters tomorrow morning.
“Bad cess to you,” he goes, “and the Curse of the Hill of Allen down on your heads!” and he storts revving the Cortina. And then everyone just stands there in shock as he drives onto the pitch and storts doing literally doughnuts in his cor and tearing up the hallowed turf of Castlerock College.
And suddenly, I’m happy to say, Edser and Big Portions and all of the rest of them understand why this match matters so much.
“Oh my God,” Big Portions goes, “I want to beat them so badly.”
And I’m like, “Okay, goys, let’s go back to work!”