I can't believe how different the place looks – but at the same time how, like, the same? I run my hand along the bor, remembering every single bump and scratch in the wood.
My phone rings and I answer it. It ends up being Sorcha.
“Ross,” she goes, “where are you?”
I’m there, “I’m in the, em, library.”
It’ll tell you what state my mind is in that I can’t even lie to my wife properly.
“What library?” she goes.
And I remember that I don’t know any libraries. So I go, “It was just a library that I happened to be passing and decided to pop to see what all the fuss was about.”
She’s there, “All the libraries are closed, Ross. Why is there an alorm going off in the background there?”
“An alorm, Ross. An alorm.”
“I’m, er, struggling to hear you, Sorcha –the signal isn’t great where I am.”
“Don’t hang up on me!”
“Hello? Hello? Hello?”
"Don't you dare hang up on me!"
I hang up on her, put my phone in my pocket and do some more of my famous deep thinking.
It was here that I celebrated Brian O'Driscoll's birthday – with him and without him. Ronan O'Gara's birthday. Paul O'Connell's birthday
Every – I don't know – significant thing that ever happened in my life has some association with Kielys of Donnybrook. I was here the night all of my children were born and I was here the night Father Fehily died. I celebrated engagements in here, mourned people I loved in here and drowned my sorrows after failing driving tests and Leaving Certs in here. I drank from the Heineken Cup, the Six Nations trophy and the Leinster Schools Senior Cup in here. I made friends and lost friends in here, fell in and out of love in here and drank myself sober grieving my many marriage break-ups in here.
It was here that I celebrated Brian O'Driscoll's birthday – with him and without him. Ronan O'Gara's birthday. Paul O'Connell's birthday. Christmas Eves, Paddy's Days and Holy Thursdays. Weddings, christenings and funerals. Bankruptcies, divorce porties and the night Johnny Ronan exited Nama and stuck five Ks behind the bor.
I watched lounge staff become adults in here. I put quite a few of them through college. I was banned for life. I was invited back. I slept in the doorway when I was too hammered for a taxi to take me home.
I know every mork on the floor, the walls and the ceiling – and the stories that each one tells. The incident with the flaming sambuca. The incident with the fire extinguisher. The incident where I switched the channel five minutes from the end of the Munster v Gloucester miracle match and kicked off a pretty much riot?
I spilled blood in here. I shed tears in here. I vomited in every corner and I pissed on every inch of the toilet floor. I was here for fancy dress night. I was here for karaoke nights. I was here for table quiz nights, including the famous one where I volunteered for the tie-breaker round.
I suddenly become aware of someone standing in the doorway. It's a gord from across the road – obviously alerted by the alorm
Mary was like, “What bird is famous for imitating the songs of others?”
And I went, "Leona Lewis. "
Ten years later, complete strangers still shout that at me in the street.
“Leona Lewis!” they go.
Happened in Donnybrook Fair two days before Christmas. I think I’m more famous for that than I am for anything I achieved slash didn’t achieve on the rugby field.
It’s nice to be remembered for something.
And, of course, my dream of becoming a world class number ten was born in here, nursed in here and died in here.
I suddenly become aware of someone standing in the doorway. It’s a gord from across the road – obviously alerted by the alorm.
He’s like, “What are you doing in here?”
"I'm – I think it's the word? – reminiscering?" I go.
“Did you force that door open?”
“Yeah, but what does it matter now? They’re about to knock the place down anyway.”
“It’s still breaking and entering.”
“Tomayto, tomato. I just wanted to pay my last respects.”
He sort of, like, laughs to himself.
“Another one,” he goes.
I’m there, “Are you saying I’m not the first?”
“Far from it. There was three in last Saturday. The one in the afternoon was a crier. We had to call a hostage negotiator from the Park to come and talk to him.”
“See, that’s a measure of how much this place actually meant to people.”
“Five hours it took to get him out.”
“I actually considered chaining myself to the bor to stop the demolition happening.”
“It was just a pub – like any other.”
"You don't know what you're talking about. That's exactly what it wasn't? My old man only gave me two pieces of advice that were any good. The first was, 'If you're ever in trouble, ring Hennessy Coghlan-O'Hara.' The second was, 'When you're choosing a local, make sure you choose it well.'"
“So you do live locally, do you?”
"No, I don't. I live on, like, Vico Road. "
“It’s in, like, Killiney?”
“You know about the five K thing, do you?”
“Hey, it’s cool – my old man will pay it.”
“The five Ks. Don’t worry, he’s good for it.”
"I'm talking about kilometres. While Ireland is at Level 5, you're not permitted to travel more than five kilometres from your home unless you have a reasonable excuse."
“Hey, I’d class saying goodbye to the boozer I loved as a reasonable excuse, would you?”
“Er, no, I wouldn’t.”
“We’ll just have to agree to differ then.”
“No, we won’t. I’m afraid I’m going to have to arrest you.”
All I can do is just smile. I’m like, “It’s not the first time that’s happened in here either.”
“Come on,” he goes, “let’s go.”
I take one last look around, trying to take it all in. But then I realise that I don't need to take it in? Because I know it – every sacred inch of the place. And even after they tear it down, I'll still be able to close my eyes and come here in, like, my imagination.
Come on,” the dude goes, “let’s go the station.”
And I’m there, “Can you ring Hennessy Coghlan-O’Hara for me?”