Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: ‘I’m sorry but that’s where this Santa Claus draws the line’

Ross gets a flashback to his Senior Cup days while filling in for St Nick in Foxrock

'It’s a long time since there’s been such a buzz about me. And being essentially a confidence player, I feel myself quickly growing into the role that I’m being asked to play here today.'

'It’s a long time since there’s been such a buzz about me. And being essentially a confidence player, I feel myself quickly growing into the role that I’m being asked to play here today.'

 

Sorcha asks me what I’m doing in a way that suggests she wants me to do something else. I tell her I’m watching the rugby.

“Bath?” she goes, looking at the score in the top left-hand corner of the screen. “Is that the same match you watched yesterday?”

And I’m like, “Yeah, I’m actually re-watching it? Just scribbling down a few thoughts in the Tactics Book. In case I run into any of the goys over Christmas. You know how much Jordan Larmour loves getting notes from me.”

She picks up the remote control and switches off the TV. She’s like, “There’s a Christmas Fair in Foxrock. A friend of my gran organises it. Their Santa has called in sick.”

I go, “And this affects me how exactly?”

And that’s when she drops the red suit in my lap.

I’m like, “No way! Not a chance!”

But she’s there, “Ross, I’ve agreed to look after the kids for a whole weekend after Christmas when you swan off to Limerick for a match. So you’re going to do this favour for me. I’ll drive. You can put the suit on in the cor.”

So that’s what ends up happening? Twenty minutes later, we pull into the church cor pork. Well, actually, we pork in Foxrock Court, because Sorcha thinks the sight of Santa Claus getting out of a Nissan Leaf might take away some of the magic for the kids and I dare say she’s right.

I end up getting a sudden flashback to my Senior Cup days, when that was the reaction every time I walked out on to the field, or into Eddie Rockets in Donnybrook

Then we walk across the cor pork towards the famous Foxrock Parish Pastoral Centre, where the actual fair is happening. I’m pulling on the beard, because the last thing I want is to be recognised – for my sake more than anything. And that’s when the most incredible thing happens.

There’s, like, a huge crowd of parents and kids hanging around outside. When they see me coming, there ends up being a humongous cheer. I can hear people going, “Mommy, it’s him! It’s him!” and, “He’s amazing, isn’t he?” and, “He looks great!”

And I end up getting a sudden flashback to my Senior Cup days, when that was the reaction every time I walked out on to the field, or into Eddie Rockets in Donnybrook. It’s a long time since there’s been such a buzz about me. And being essentially a confidence player, I feel myself quickly growing into the role that I’m being asked to play here today.

Noticing that my shoulders are suddenly pinned back, Sorcha goes, “Don’t you dare flash your six-pack!” and I tell her that I wasn’t going to, although I can’t say the urge wasn’t there.

Listen to Ross

Into the – again – Pastoral Centre we go, people telling me how excited they are to meet me, even asking for selfies. I eventually manage to sit down and I stort doing the whole Santa bit, listening to the boys and girls telling me what they want for Christmas.

One of my qualities that definitely doesn’t get praised enough is my personality. I’ve always been a genuine people person and it’s nice to get the opportunity to showcase that in front of a large and appreciative crowd. I’m literally on fire.

One little girl goes, “Last year, my daddy left a big glass of brandy for you on the kitchen table – and you drank it all!”

The word pops out of my mouth and I can sense a definite change of atmos in the room. The kid bursts into tears and his old man goes, 'How dare you?'

And I’m looking at her old man, going, “Did I indeed? And did your daddy have a bit of a headache on Christmas morning?”

“I don’t know,” she goes. “He didn’t get up until the afternoon.”

Of course that brings the house down. People are cracking up laughing and I hear someone turn around to Sorcha and go, “He’s the best Santa we’ve ever had! I think this might have to become an annual thing!”

And my attitude towards that is the same as my attitude towards, say, Joe Schmidt asking me to become port of the Ireland coaching set-up ahead of the World Cup. I’d hem and haw about it, probably ask one or two questions about expenses, but deep down we all know that the only answer I’m going to give is a massive, massive yes – provided the expenses were good.

Anyway, it goes on like this for about an hour-and-a-half – essentially me bringing joy to people’s lives. I overhear one mother telling Sorcha that she’s very lucky to have someone like me – again, it’s like my Senior Cup days – and Sorcha smiles at me and goes, “I know! He is amazing!”

And I wish it could have stayed like that. It would have stayed like that – if it wasn’t for that one little boy.

I can tell he’s trouble from the second he steps up to me with a big, sulky head on him. I go, “Hello there, little chap!” sort of doing an impression of my man. “And what would you like for Christmas?”

“An Ireland jersey,” he goes – and he practically spits the words at me.

I’m there, “An Ireland jersey! I think we can manage that! And what number would you like on the back of it?”

“Two,” he goes.

And I’m like, “Two? A Rory Best fan, huh?”

And that’s when the kid’s old man turns around and says the most unbelievable thing.

“No,” he goes, “it’s actually Séamus Coleman.”

Obviously, I’m there, “Who?”

And the dude just laughs. “He doesn’t want an Ireland rugby jersey,” he goes. “He wants a soccer one.”

I should just write it down. But I can’t bring myself to do it.

“Sorry,” I go, “we don’t do soccer jerseys”.

I hate breaking character but I end up saying it in my own voice.

The dad goes, “What do you mean you don’t do them? Could you not, I don’t know, persuade your elves to make one?”

I’m like, “Dude, they hate soccer as much as I do. They think it’s shit.”

The word pops out of my mouth and I can sense a definite change of atmos in the room. The kid bursts into tears and his old man goes, “How dare you?”

Sorcha steps forward then and goes, “Santa, maybe you should just write down ‘a soccer jersey’ in your book?”

And I’m there, “I physically couldn’t bring myself to do it, Sorcha,” at the same time tearing off the beard. “I’m sorry but that’s where this Santa Claus draws the line.”

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