Ross: ‘Hip replacements are for old people. I’m only 37, Dude’
Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: 'Ross, you soft-as-shite, south Dublin mammy’s boy'
'It’ll be like Oliver Plunkett’s head. People will travel from miles around to see Ross O’Carroll-Kelly’s hip.'
The goys all know that something’s wrong – as in, I’m not my usual self? The LinkedIn women’s tag rugby team walked into Kielys an hour ago and I haven’t offered one of them the opportunity to feel my abs yet. It’s just not like me.
It’s Christian who eventually asks the question that’s on everyone’s lips. He’s like, “What’s wrong?”
Oisinn goes, “Yeah, you’ve been sitting there all night with a face on you like the Long Mile Road. Why did you even come out? You should have stayed home and watched Love Island.”
I’m there, “Sorcha’s recording it for me. And if you must know – yeah, no – something is wrong? I’ve been putting off telling you because I didn’t want to put a dampener on the night. But I’ll tell you now, seeing as you’ve sort of, like, coaxed it out of me. I have to have a hip-replacement operation.”
Hip replacements are for people who require hip replacements. Ross, you’re in pain”
JP laughs so hord that he ends up passing a mouthful of Ken through his nose. Oisinn, Christian and Fionn all have a good chuckle as well. Then they must see the literally tears in my eyes because it’s Oisinn who ends up going, “Seriously, Dude? This isn’t a joke?”
I’m like, “Yeah, seriously. It’s my right hip – the one that’s been giving me trouble for years.”
“Jerry Flannery, ” Christian goes – and he leaves it at that.
I’m there, “Hey, I’m not going to stort blaming Fla. It was a perfectly legitimate tackle. I said it in the ambulance. But I’ve had to live with the consequences for the last pretty much 20 years. I can predict the weather by the thing. It’s going to rain later, by the way – I can’t believe you didn’t wear your sailing jackets.”
Fionn – this is unbelievable – turns around to me and goes, “Isn’t it a good thing that you’re finally getting it fixed, though? You’ll be free from pain.”
And he’s supposed to be the intelligent one?
I end up totally losing it with him. I’m there, “I’m only 37, Dude!”
He goes, “Why is that relevant?”
“Hip replacements are for old people.”
“No, hip replacements are for people who require hip replacements. Ross, you’re in pain.”
“I can live with the pain!” I end up roaring at him. “What I can’t live with is the fact that . . . This means it’s over.”
The goys all exchange looks that would have to be described as, I don’t know – I want to say quizzical?
“What’s over?” Fionn goes.
Listen to Ross
I’m like, “My rugby career.”
Again, it’s JP who laughs the hordest. “Dude,” he goes, “you’re 37.”
I’m there, “Yeah, I was the one who pointed that out a few minutes ago. What are you, turning my words against me now?”
None of you would have won a Leinster Schools Senior Cup medal if it wasn’t for my stubborn refusal to know when I was beaten”
“It’s just that, you know, I hate to point out the obvious, Ross, but your rugby career was basically over at the age of 19.”
“That doesn’t mean I gave up hope that it would one day possibly happen for me! But this will draw a line under it once and for all. No one with an ortificial hip has ever played for Ireland – or have they?”
They all think that’s hilarious. They all think I’m hilarious. Christian – my supposedly best friend, bear in mind? – goes, “Are you saying, Ross, that all these years, you’ve genuinely been waiting for a call-up?”
I end up just standing up. I’m like, “How many times did my inability to face facts win us matches that we had no right to win back in the day? None of you would have won a Leinster Schools Senior Cup medal if it wasn’t for my stubborn refusal to know when I was beaten.”
I can see it straight away – the guilt in their eyes.
I’m there, “I would have expected this kind of mockery from my daughter, not from my ex-teammates and supposed friends.”
I walk up to the bor. One of the LinkedIn girls is standing beside me. She’s not the worst.
“Did you win?” I go. “As in, your match tonight?”
She’s there, “Yeah, we beat, like, Accenture?”
And I’m like, “Fair focks. Definite fair focks. Savour the moment, is my advice. And I’m saying that as a former Ireland fringe player who’s now suffering from a possibly career-ending injury.”
“Ross,” he goes, “you marbles-in-your-mouth, soft-as-shite, south Dublin mammy’s boy”
“Poor you!” she goes – and she smiles at me, but I don’t know whether she’s being sincere or not. I’ve never really understood that whole passive-aggression thing. It’s like when a woman says to you after sex, “That was quick,” and you don’t know whether to take it as a compliment or an insult.
She grabs her drink and wanders back over to her mates. “Enjoy it,” I go, almost to myself, “because tomorrow it could all be snatched away from you.”
All of a sudden I sense that someone is standing beside me. I turn my head and it ends up being Christian. He goes, “I’ve got someone on the phone for you.”
I’m there, “If it’s Oisinn pretending to be Joe Schmidt again, I’m not in the mood. Unless – Jesus! – it actually is Joe Schmidt?”
“It’s Jerry Flannery,” he goes. “I hope you don’t mind. I rang him.”
He hands me his phone. I end up having to take a moment before I can even talk to him. Me and Fla had this unbelievable rivalry on the pitch, but there was also a massive, massive respect, and a friendship that’s lasted down the years, despite our very different backgrounds. He’s my Brother from Another County.
“Ross,” he goes, “you marbles-in-your-mouth, soft-as-shite, south Dublin mammy’s boy.”
Yeah, no, it’s definitely him.
He goes, “Is it true what the fella said? About the hip?”
I’m there, “Yeah, no unfortunately, Fla, I have to get a new one.”
He goes, “Can I have the old one?”
I’m like, “Excuse me?”
“I want to put it on display in the bar – behind glass, like.”
“Is Limerick definitely the place for it? Mary and Pat might want it in Kielys.”
“Do you think the people of Munster don’t remember the player you could have been, Ross?”
“Okay, this is doing wonders for my confidence, Fla. Say more stuff to me along those lines.”
“It’ll be like Oliver Plunkett’s head. People will travel from miles around to see Ross O’Carroll-Kelly’s hip. Can we have it when you’re finished with it?”
And, suddenly, I feel incredible again.
“Fla,” I go. “It’s yours.”