Ross O'Carroll-Kelly


‘Then he storts putting combinations together and he’s literally a blur, going at that bag like a Mexican kid with a hyperactivity disorder and a piñata’

SO TUESDAY AFTERNOON, I’m in the back gorden, giving the punchbag a serious going over – we’re talking tap, tap, boom! We’re talking tap, tap – tap, tap, boom! This white-collar boxing match that I volunteered to take port in is only, like, six weeks away and I’m determined that I’m going to be ready – physically, psychologically and whatever else there is.

In addition to the training, I’m horsing my way through that organic muesli of Sorcha’s that looks like focking kitty litter, plus I’m totally off the drink four nights a week. I’ve also written some of Fr Fehily’s favourite sayings on to a series of, like, Post-it notes, and I’ve stuck them on the bathroom mirror.

We’re talking, “Heroism is endurance for one minute longer.” We’re talking, “One of these days is none of these days.” We’re talking, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” We’re talking, “There’s no tree that’s too tall for a short dog to piss on.” I read these while I’m, like, shaving in the mornings and it’s honestly like his spirit is with me – like Burgess Meredith in the third Rocky movie, if that doesn’t sound too ridiculous.

People can say what they like about me – thick as a ditch, bad father, bad son, too good-looking to be loyal to any one woman – but the one thing that no one can deny is that I’m an unbelievable competitor. And I’m like that in pretty much everything I turn my mind to? Even when we’re doing the big shop in Superquinn, I set myself the challenge of not having anything left to bag up when the checkout bird rings the last item through. Even as I’m approaching her with the trolley, I’m already thinking tactically. I put everything on the conveyor belt, but I space out the items that have security tags attached to them – bottles of wine, razor blades, DVDs, whatever else – just to stop her getting a proper momentum going. I’m essentially breaking up the play.

Then as I’m pushing the trolley back to the cor pork, another victory under my belt, I’ll sometimes turn to Sorcha and go, “How can the Leinster branch say that I’ve got nothing more to contribute to the game? The focking nerve of these people.”

So like I said, there I am, roysh, on Tuesday afternoon, working over the bag in the back gorden, with a bit of Jay Z blaring out, when all of a sudden Ronan arrives with Buckets of Blood – his friend and my trainer.

“Alreet, Rosser,” Ronan goes.

I’m like, “Alright, Ro. Alright, Buckets.”

“Where’d you get the punchbag?” Ronan goes.

I tell him that it’s not actually a punchbag. It’s actually the beanbag that Sorcha bought in the Habitat closing-down sale. I’ve tied a knot in the top of it to tighten it up, wrapped it in the lagging jacket from the boiler in the hot press and hung it from the rotary washing line. “Don’t tell her,” I go. “She’d shit giblets.”

Ro goes, “The one thing I’m not, Rosser, is a rat.”

So I’m dancing around the thing, popping punches at it – I’m good, there’s no question about that – and Buckets is suddenly going, “Unleash some of them combinations I’m arthur showing you, Rosser. Come on – jab, jab, hook, uppercut . . . Jab, jab, uppercut.” The next thing any of us knows, Gary – our next-door neighbour and my soon-to-be opponent – is looking over the fence. He sort of, like, chuckles to himself and goes, “Jab, jab, hook, uppercut – that takes me back. Keep your hands a bit higher, Ross.”

I don’t even look at him. I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t need any advice, thank you.” Then Buckets of Blood – who’s supposedly my coach? – storts shooting the breeze with the dude, fraternising with the literally enemy.

“Did you box yourself?” he goes.

And Gary’s like, “When I was younger. I was a European intervarsity champion. Three times actually.”

I sort of, like, tut to myself, like I’m not actually impressed? “I mean, have we even established yet how big a deal is that?” I go. “I’m talking actually? I mean, who could fight in college? We were all too pissed.”

He laughs like he actually agrees with me. I hate this dude. And it’s not just because he has a serious thing for my wife. “So,” he goes, “have you chosen a charity yet, Ross?”

I’m there, “What do you mean?”

“Well, that’s what these white collar boxing events are about. Raising valuable sponsorship funds. I’m giving mine to a benevolent fund for boxers who’ve been badly injured in the ring. I’ve seen some terrible cases.”

Ro cops it straight away. “He’s gaming you, Rosser. He’s fooken with your head.”

I’m there, “I know he is, Ro,” and this is, like, right in front of Gary. “What this dude here forgets is that I know a thing or six about gamesmanship myself.” Which is true. I remember before we played Roscrea once in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup, me, Oisinn, JP and Christian filled the opposition dressing room with live chickens and sheep – just to make them feel at home, if you know what I’m saying! Gary’s suddenly there, “Could I have a go? On the bag, I mean.”

I’m like, “Errr, I don’t think so, Gary. I’m mid-training here. The torget I set myself was the end of this Jay Z album and I fully intend to stick to it.”

“Just 60 seconds,” he goes, suddenly jumping the fence into the gorden.

I don’t get a chance to say anything else. He steps up to the bag and I automatically take a step backwards. At first, roysh, he sort of, like, paws at it a few times – the same way that a cat gives you little licks to tenderise your skin before sinking its focking teeth into you. Then – bang! – he hits it. I have literally no idea how that rotary washing line stays standing.

Bang! He hits it again. Then again and again and again. Then he storts putting combinations together and he’s suddenly, literally, a blur, going at that bag like a Mexican kid with a hyperactivity disorder and a piñata.

Then I hear this tearing sound, like stitches being ripped? And when he finally stops hitting the thing, I notice that not only is the foam hanging out of the lagging jacket, but the beans from Sorcha’s bag are spilling onto the ground like a burst bag of sugar.

Ronan and Buckets of Blood end up just standing there with, like, their mouths open? And what can I say, except, “I think I might have done a bit of that damage myself.”

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