‘I’m the most high-profile Irish rugby player who never got the Leaving?’
Ross gets a surprising phone call – it might be time to break out the ‘flat hat thing’
“The universities award honorary doctorates. We just thought, isn’t it time we started to award Honorary Leaving Certificates?”
The dude who rings is called Mister Something-Something. His name isn’t important. He says he’s from the Deportment of Education and he has some good news for me.
“You sat the Leaving Certificate in 1998,” he goes, “and again in 1999.”
I’m like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa – are you about to tell me that my old man’s appeal against my results has been successful?”
He laughs. He goes, “I think you mean appeals, plural?”
I laugh, too.
It’s true. My old man was always convinced that I was some kind of misunderstood genius. What did he used to say? “You rationalise things in a way that is far beyond the ken of the Deportment of Education functionaries correcting these papers and handing out NGs like they were bloody well sweets!”
He only stopped lodging appeals about three years ago. There are people on Death Row who’ve given up quicker.
The dude goes, “No, I’m not ringing to tell you that one of your father’s appeals has been successful. Although we used to love his letters in here.”
I’m there, “He writes a good letter alright.”
“We have some of them framed in the Department.”
I tell no one, not even Sorcha. I just decide to keep it to myself
“When he gets that Mont Blanc in his hand-.”
“No, the reason I’m ringing is you may have read that Physical Education is going to be added to the Leaving Certificate curriculum from September.”
“Dude, I can’t repeat again. I’m thirty-focking-seven this week.”
He laughs. “No, no,” he goes, “I’m not suggesting that at all. I’m phoning because we would like to offer you an Honorary Leaving Certificate.”
“An Honorary Leaving Certificate? Is that an actual thing?”
“Well, it hasn’t been, until now. But the universities award honorary doctorates. We just thought, isn’t it time we started to award Honorary Leaving Certificates?”
I end up asking a question that possibly no one in South Dublin has ever asked before. I go, “Why me?”
He’s there, “Well, why not you?”
Listen to Ross
“Hey, I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to talk you out of it, but I’m a complete focking dunderhead.”
“Look, we wanted to mark the fact that – as I said – PE is becoming a Leaving Cert subject. So we started to try to think of well-known Irish rugby players who didn’t pass their Leaving Certificate-.”
“Hang on. You’re saying I’m the most high-profile Irish rugby player who never got the Leaving?”
“Okay, that surprises me. I’m not naming names. But that definitely surprises me.”
“Well, can I take it that you’d be interested in receiving this honour?”
“Will I be able to tell people that I passed the Leaving Cert?”
“No, you’ll be able to tell people that you have the Leaving Cert.”
Hey, that’ll change a few people’s opinions of the Rossmeister.
“That’s good enough for me,” I go.
He’s like, “Excellent. We wanted to do the conferring this Friday night in the Shelbourne Hotel. ”
“Do I get to wear one of those flat hat things?”
“Do you mean a mortarboard?”
“I don’t know. I’ve always just called it a flat hat thing. I think my wife has one in the eaves.”
“If you want to wear it, that’s fine with us. We’ll see you on Friday then.”
Well, you can probably imagine how slowly the week passes for me. And with every day, I become more and more excited? I’m thinking, this could end up being the game changer in terms of people saying I’m stupid.
I tell no one, not even Sorcha. I just decide to keep it to myself until I have that piece of paper in my hand, then I can walk into Kielys with it and just go, “Read it and weep, people! Read it! And weep!”
I might even ask Mary to stick it up behind the bor.
They’re both laughing so hord they can barely even speak
So Friday night finally arrives. I throw on the old chinos, shirt and blazer and head for the Shelly in plenty of time. Into the hotel I confidently stride. I’m even thinking, hey, 2018 might be the year I end up doing the whole improving my mind thing? I might even buy a couple of books – and I’m talking about big, thick ones.
Do you want to know slow I am? Even when I spot JP and Oisinn in the No. 27 bor, I put it down to, like, coincidence. Yeah, no, I walk in there and I go, “I bet you’re surprised to see me here!”
But I’m the one who ends up getting the surprise? In fact, they both actually go, “Surprise!”
I’m like, “What?”
They’re both laughing so hord they can barely even speak.
“Happy birthday!” Oisinn manages to go, as he hands me a pint of the Wonder Stuff.
“Yeah, no, happy birthday!” JP goes – and he says it in the same voice as the dude from the Deportment of Education.
I’m like, “Hang on, that was you? You’re Mister Something-Something?”
Again, the roars of laughter. It did sound like him, now that I think about it.
JP goes, “Look, we know how much you hate your birthday, Ross. How every January is a reminder to you that another Six Nations is about to happen without you being involved. This was the only way we knew we could get you to come out on the lash with us.”
Oisinn slaps me on the top of the orm. “An Honorary Leaving Certificate!” he goes. “I can’t believe you fell for it!”
I’m there, “Yeah, no, I knew it was someone ripping the piss. I thought I might as well play along with it.”
“Hang on, is that an actual mortarboard under your orm?”
“No, it’s, em, a flat hat thing.”
They basically collapse in hysterics.
JP goes, “Wait’ll Christian and Fionn get here! They’ll die when they hear this!”
And all I can do is just laugh along, drink my pint and think what a beautiful dream it was while it lasted.