Subscriber OnlyRoss O'Carroll-Kelly

‘Dad, you need to ask yourself what do you want to be – a rugby fan or a good father?’

It’s Ireland versus South Africa in the literal World Cup

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I love a crowd. Yeah, no, that’s as true of me now as it was back in my days as the best number 10 in the history of Irish schools rugby and the goy that every girl wanted to be with. I love the feeling of people staring at me with their gobs open in just, like, wonder.

That’s basically me in Corcoran’s in Paris on Friday afternoon. It’s, like, the day before Ireland play South Africa at the Stade de France and I’m explaining to a crowd of 60 or 70 people where Joe Schmidt went wrong in 2019 and why I think we’ll win the World Cup this time. I could tell you that I don’t have my Rugby Tactics Book open on the bor in front of me but that would make a liar of me.

People are going, “How has this dude never been added to the Leinster coaching ticket?” and, “He has the kind of knowledge that could allow us to finally see off La Rochelle,” and I’m not just talking about Christian and JP and Oisinn and Fionn. I’m talking about total strangers, hanging on my literally every word and offering to buy me pints of Gerard Adriaan’s folly.

And that’s when my phone all of a sudden rings? I whip it out and I check the screen. It’s a number I don’t recognise. Now, in normal circs, I’d kill the call, but I’m a little bit full of myself this afternoon and there’s some tiny port of me thinks that it could be a coaching offer – Leo has to do something different next season – which is the reason I end up answering the thing.


But it ends up being Honor. She goes, “Hi, Dad, how are you?”

I’m there, “I’m in absolutely scintillating form, Honor. I’m a little bit pissed but I just heard some dude I’ve never met before describe me as a South Dublin Ronan O’Gara, which I’m deciding to take as a compliment.”

And that’s when she says it. She’s like, “So my luck finally ran out today.”

I’m there, “In terms of what, Honor?”

And she goes, “I’m in Donnybrook Gorda station. I got caught bursting the tyres of a Hyundai Tucson on Cedarmount Road.”

My entire body turns cold. I’m there, “Shit… Right… Er…” not knowing what to even say. “Cedarmount Road… Is that in Mount Merrion?”

“Oh my God,” she goes, “are you thinking about how this is going to affect you and your stupid focking match tomorrow?”

Yeah, no, tell your old dear that you’re staying over in Sincerity’s gaff. Tell her you’re studying. She loves hearing that kind of shit

I’m like, “No,” even though it’s exactly what I’m thinking. “It’s just – yeah, no – I’m in Paris at the moment and there’s not a huge amount I can do.”

She’s like, “You need to come home. Tonight.”

I’m there, “Right. Em, let me think.”

She goes, “Maybe I’ll ring her then,” meaning Sorcha, and she’s saying it as a threat. “I’ll tell her that the SUV Avenger is me and you’ve known for months.”

I’m like, “Please don’t do that, Honor.”

“Well,” she goes, “someone has to come and get me. They want to chorge me with 178 counts of criminal damage but they have to wait until a parent or gordian is present.”

I’m there, “Riiiggghhht.”

She’s like, “What do you mean by riiiggghhht?”

I’m there, “Okay, I know this is going to sound possibly bad – and bear in mind that I’m sort of thinking out loud here – but could they hold onto you for a couple of days?”

She’s like, “Excuse me?” and she’s not a happy bunny.

“I’m just making the point that your timing couldn’t have been worse,” I go. “I was actually just saying that, in terms of its overall importance, this match is on a por with the Grand Slam decider against England and the third Test against the All Blacks last summer.”

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly: Honor. Illustration: Alan Clarke.

She’s there, “You’re asking me to stay here until, when, Sunday?”

I’m like, “Yeah, no, tell your old dear that you’re staying over in Sincerity’s gaff. Tell her you’re studying. She loves hearing that kind of shit.”

“Dad,” she goes – again, not happy, “it’s not a focking Airbnb. It’s a Gorda station.”

I’m there, “One of the better ones, in fairness to it. I’ve been in those cells a fair few times. I used to drink across the road, remember?”

She ends up totally losing it with me then. She’s there, “I am not sleeping in a focking cell for the next two nights.”

I go, “It’s actually three nights now that you say it. I’m flying home on Monday afternoon. Thought I’d give myself the extra day to recover. Is there a Dodie McAlinden there?”

She’s like, “Excuse me?”

Before I can say, ‘Come on, Honor, it’s only three nights! They do a lovely scrambled egg in there!’ she hangs up on me

I’m there, “He arrested me six or seven times over the years. He’s absolutely sound, even though he’s more into Gaelic football than he is into rugby. Throw me onto him there and I’ll explain the situation.”

She goes, “Can you focking hear yourself?”

I’m there, “Excuse me?”

She’s like, “Your 14-year-old daughter is in a Gorda station – .”

I’m there, “Whoa, that’s your fault, Honor. I told you that you were pushing your luck. Interfering with people’s cors is something that’s taken very seriously in South Dublin.”

She goes, “You need to ask yourself what do you want to be – a rugby fan or a good father?”

I’m there, “I’d like to think I’m both.”

She goes, “Fine! I’m ringing her!” and before I can say, “Come on, Honor, it’s only three nights! They do a lovely scrambled egg in there!” she hangs up on me.

People stort crowding around me again and I’m suddenly back doing my Boy Jesus in the Temple routine, spouting my wisdom while people look on in awe, enjoying me and occasionally shouting, “Say some more things to us!”

Ten minutes later, I feel my phone vibrate in my – yeah, no – pocket. I whip it out and – no real surprise – it ends up being Sorcha. And that’s when Honor’s words come back to me. Do I want to be a rugby fan or a good father? The truth is, I want to be a good father. But I have to weigh that up against the fact that it’s Ireland versus South Africa in the literally World Cup.

So I answer my phone and I go, “Sorcha? Hello, Sorcha? Sorry, Babes, I can’t hear you. The reception in here is bad and my battery is about to – .”

Then I kill the call and – who can blame me? – switch off my phone.

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