Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: ‘You’ve massively disimproved with age ... The big, fat rugby head on you’

I’m looking at the other 41-year-old men and I’m thinking how well I look by comparison

A dude in a fluorescent yellow bib asks me if I have ID.

And I go, “My face is my ID!” a line I always use in these situations. I don’t know why. It’s never actually worked.

So I hand him my passport. He opens it, stares at my name and goes, "Ross O'Carroll… Kenny, is it?"

“Kelly,” I go. “You’re obviously not a rugby fan.”


“Not really, no.”

“Well, if you’d been in this stadium on Paddy’s Day in 1999, you’d know who I was.”

“Why, what happened?”

"Er, I only led Castlerock College to victory in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup. Actually, I got an injection in the stadium that day as well. It's why they took the medal from me."

The dude hands me back my passport – along with some kind of, like, information leaflet? – and tells me to keep moving.

So inside I go and I join the queue for the escalator. I’m looking around me at all the other – yeah, no – forty-one-year-old men, with their grey hair, pot bellies and receding hairlines and I’m thinking how well I look by comparison.

That’s when I notice a girl – we’re talking five or six people ahead of me in the queue – looking over her shoulder at me. It’s a long time since I’ve caught anyone checking me out, what with the whole mask thing, and it’s nice to know that women still find me attractive, even from the nose up and the chin down.

“Asshole!” she goes.

I’m like, “Excuse me?”

She pulls down her mask to let me see her face. It's Desdemona Lyons. We had one or two scenes together back in my UCD days. The last time I saw her, she was screaming at me that I ruined her life. Which was an exaggeration, of course. I ruined her twenty-first.

I’m like, “Desdemona, how the hell are you?”

She smiles at me and goes, "I'm actually amazing. Married to Rob for eight years now. He plays golf off a five handicap. Two gorgeous, gorgeous kids. House in Ranelagh. "

“A five handicap?” I go. “I’m tempted to say fair focks.”

“How are you?”

“Yeah, no, I’m in top form. I have to say, it’s a boost to the old ego to see how well I look compared to some of the other yokes here.”

This line doesn’t go down well with the rest of the queue. I don’t know why I thought it would.

“You know, looking back,” she goes, as she steps onto the escalator, “you trying to get off with my mom at my twenty-first was the best thing that ever happened to me. Nice to see you, Ross.”

I’m like, “Yeah, no, it’s been great catching up, Desdemona.”

Fifteen minutes later, I’m still standing in the line as we slow-shuffle our way forwards. The queue snakes this way and that. There’s suddenly a girl standing next to me except facing the other way.

“Ross?” she goes.

I’m like, “Depends who’s asking.”

"Joanne Dodd, " she goes.

Someone in the HSE hates me.

“Joanne Dodd?” I try to go. “No, it’s not ringing any bells.”

She’s like, “Holy Child Killiney? We did our J1s together?”

People in the queue are actually laughing at this stage.

"In Ocean City, " I go. "Yeah, no, it's all coming back to me now."

She’s there, “You said you’d ring me. After we got back. Then I never heard from you again.”

“Jesus, that’s, like, twenty years ago, Joanne. You’d want to stort thinking about maybe letting it go.”

The crowd here are really getting full value today.

"I heard you married Sorcha Lalor, " she goes.

I’m like, “Yeah, no, I did.”

“Poor her. That’s all I can say. Poor her.”

We keep shuffling forward until eventually I'm looking out onto the famous hallowed turf, where I did my thing back in the day. I end up getting a bit choked up when I see it. I really was an unbelievable player. It's a pity no one remembers that Ross O'Carroll-Kelly? All anyone remembers is the –


Oh, no. The news that I’m here has obviously passed up the line because another ghost of girlfriends past has come all the way back to tell me that I’m a-

“Complete and utter wanker!”

I’m like, “Sorry, have we met?”

“I wouldn’t expect you to remember my name, since you couldn’t remember it at the time. But I’ve wanted to say this to you for, like, seven years. You’re a piece of_”

“Yeah, no, that seems to be the consensus here today.”

“And by the way, you’ve massively disimproved with age, like all my friends said you would. The big, fat rugby head on you.”

This draws quite a lot of laughter from the men in the queue, who I suspect are still put out by my earlier comments. Then she turns on her heel and off she focks.

Twenty minutes later, I’m shown into a little cubicle. A dude asks me to confirm my name – again, it means nothing to him and you’d have to wonder how he even got the job - as well as my date of birth, then another dude tells me to roll up my sleeve and jabs me in the upper orm with a syringe.

Five minutes after that, I'm sitting in the recovery room, feeling a bit, I want to say, nostalgish? It's a combination of being back here and running into so many faces from my past.

I’m being talked about – and not in a good way. I can hear people going, “The dude over there in the Leinster jersey – three exes! Can you imagine?”

Statistically, given my history, that’s probably not that unusual.

“Ross O’Carroll-Kelly?” I suddenly hear a voice go.

I look up. There’s a dude standing over me.

I’m like, “Don’t tell me. I was with your sister. Or your cousin. And I stood her up the night of her debs. Or I proposed to her and she never heard from me again.”

Again, there’s a lot of laughter around me.

“I saw you play here,” he goes, “in 1999.”

I’m like, “What?”

“The schools cup final. Against Newbridge College. You ran the show. You were incredible.”

“I was incredible,” I go. “And that’s not me being big-headed.”

“Anyway, I just wanted to say it to you.”

Ten minutes later, I’m walking back up Lansdowne Road, with my shoulders back and my chin in the air, eighty percent protected against Covid, but feeling one hundred percent invincible.

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O’Carroll-Kelly was captain of the Castlerock College team that won the Leinster Schools Senior Cup in 1999. It’s rare that a day goes by when he doesn’t mention it