‘Ross, Munster isn’t an ethnicity.’ ‘What about Limerick?’ ‘Limerick isn’t either’
Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: In fact my ancestors – brace yourselves, goys – are from Munster
So it’s, like, Friday afternoon and I’m in the Heart of Rowl on the main drag in Bilbao, enjoying – let’s just say – one or two scoops with the goys. JP and Christian are quiet. I put it down to pre-match nerves. JP stares at my left pec and notices the fourth gold stor that I asked Sorcha to sew onto my jersey before I left for the airport this morning.
“I wish I had your confidence,” he goes.
And I’m like, “Who doesn’t, my friend? Who doesn’t?”
I think their main problem is they’ve forgotten how this feels. The last time The Ster were in a European Cup final was 2012. I was doing some rough maths in my famous Tactics Book on the flight over and I make it six years since we destroyed Ulster at Twickenham.
Of course, the memory of that day has suddenly awakened the – I don’t know – philosopher in me? I’m remembering that it felt like a different world back then. Oisinn had just been declared bankrupt, JP’s old man’s estate agency had gone to the wall and Christian and Fionn were on the old De La Soul. The whole recession thing affected us in ways that no one who went to a €20,000-a-year secondary school could have expected.
But now I’m listening to Oisinn talking about the invention he’s just had patented and I’m thinking about what an amazing breed we are – and I’m talking specifically about people from South Dublin.
“Vertical beds,” he goes. “What do you think?”
Christian’s like, “Vertical beds? You mean beds in which people sleep standing up?”
“Well, it’s more diagonally actually. The mattress is set at a 90 degree angle, with a footboard to stop you sliding off. The beauty of the design is that it takes up pretty much half the space of a standard single bed. Aportment sizes are getting smaller. These Vampire Beds – that’s what I’m calling them, by the way – will allow developers to maximize the available space, turning a two-bedroom aportment into a three-bedroom aportment in an instant.”
JP just shakes his head. “This could be the solution to not only the housing crisis,” he goes, “but the hospital bed crisis as well.”
That’s when my phone suddenly rings. I can see from the screen that it’s Honor, so I step outside and I answer it. I’m like, “Hey, Honor, what’s up?”
She’s there, “Where are you?”
“I’m in a place called – hilariously – Bilbao, preparing myself mentally for tomorrow’s match while listening to my friends solve the problems of the world.”
“I need to talk to you about something.”
“Er, could you maybe talk to your mother about it? I’m six or seven pints down the road here.”
“Do you remember I told you about that project we were doing in school where we all had to spit into a test tube and they sent it away to be analysed?”
“Er, no, but continue – even though it sounds disgusting.”
Listen to Ross
“It’s, like, a D.N.A. Ancestry test? They can tell you everything about your ethnic make-up from studying your saliva – as in, who your ancestors were and where they came from.”
“Why are you telling me this, Honor? It’s actually a bit boring.”
“Because I found out something that I thought you should know – we’re from Munster, Dad!”
“As in, that’s where our actual ancestors came from? From just outside Limerick actually.”
Ross, what’s with the face? Have you heard something? Jesus, Sexton’s not injured, is he?
My body turns instantly cold. I’m there, “Honor, please tell me you’re joking.”
She’s like, “I’m not joking. This is actual science. We’re from Munster. We’re Munster people.”
I hang up. I end up having to? I don’t want to hear it – on this weekend of all weekends.
It’s, like, a good 15 minutes before I can go back into the pub. The goys are still talking about Oisinn’s Vampire Bed.
“Of course, in Ancient Egypt,” Fionn’s going, “many people slept on beds that were slanted, because they associated lying down with death.”
JP’s there, “I’ll tell you who’s going to love this idea – Leo Varadkar. We know how much he admires people who get up early in the morning. With these beds, you’re technically up all the time.”
It’s Christian who’s the first to notice the sudden change in my mood. He’s like, “Ross, what’s with the face? Have you heard something? Jesus, Sexton’s not injured, is he?”
I’m there, “Jesus Sexton is fine. I was just thinking of maybe heading back to the hotel and getting an early night.”
“Dude, it’s four o’clock in the afternoon.”
Oisinn goes, “Ross, what’s going on? Why have you taken your jumper off your shoulders and put it on you?”
And I end up just spilling it.
I’m there, “Because I’m not fit to wear the Leinster colours, Oisinn.”
He’s like, “What?”
“Yeah, no, that was Honor on the phone. Have any of you goys ever heard of a thing called D.N.A.?”
It turns out they all have. I always suspected that one or two of them were secret studiers at school.
I’m there, “Well, Honor had her saliva tested as port of some, I don’t know, project she’s doing. Apparently, they can tell all sorts of stuff about your history by looking at it – presumably under a microscope?”
Christian goes, “So?”
“Well, it turns out that I’m not as blue-blooded as I thought. As a matter of fact, my ancestors – brace yourselves, goys – are from Munster. Limerick, to make matters worse. You know, even as I’m saying it, I’m wondering what Leo Cullen will say if he finds out. It’ll kill him.”
Fionn laughs in my actual face. He goes, “Ross, you can’t tell where someone lived from their D.N.A. What do you think it is, an Eircode or something?”
I’m there, “I don’t know. I’d never heard of the stuff until 20 minutes ago.”
“You can tell someone’s ethnicity from it. Munster isn’t an ethnicity.”
“What about Limerick?”
“Limerick isn’t either.”
“So why would Honor ring me up on the eve of the biggest Leinster match in – the figure I’m going with is six years – and tell me that I’m actually from-.”
I don’t get to finish the thought. I don’t need to. I whip out my phone and I notice that I have a text message from her.
It’s just like, “Burn!”