Hook goes off script as the Drico fairytale finally loses the plot
A happy, if not quite Hollywood, ending at the RDS for our brave heroes
Our brave hero Drico, along with his wise-cracking partner Leo “I’m too old for this shit” Cullen. Photograph: Inpho
A rugby great left us on Saturday evening, giving mere mortals one last chance to see him in action, one last chance to see his unique combination of physicality and grace in action. Yes, George Hook was leaving the club scene, but he had no intention of going gently into that good night.
So, are you looking forward to Brian O’Driscoll’s last game, George?
“I’m not going to talk about that . . . because what I’m concerned about is that Brian O’Driscoll and Fergus McFadden are out here playing just two weeks after sustaining a brain injury.”
Daire O’Brien: “You mean a concussion?”
George: “I mean a brain injury . . . This is the last time I’m going to talk about a club game on television and I’m not sure I want to see young men risk their lives for spectators.”
Right. Consider our sails de-winded. This rugby lark sounds dangerous – maybe Leinster and Glasgow could just hug it out instead and share the trophy?
It was sobering stuff from George, out of kilter with the day’s carnival atmosphere. Equally out of kilter was the way he kept reminding us it was his last time analysing a club game for RTÉ (Daire eventually pointed out that RTÉ weren’t putting him out to pasture) when there were a couple of other high-profile goodbyes happening around him that probably carried a bit more weight.
Days such as Saturday always seem to get presenters talking about scripts and how they are written. “The Brian O’Driscoll story has been mercifully short on easy plot-lines and wooden dialogue – and now it’s the final act,” said Daire.
The montage dedicated to O’Driscoll’s career was a testament to his durability and a reminder to viewers of how times have changed over the past 15 years.
Firstly, rugby shirts used to be long and loose, a handy fashion accessory for the paunchy man. Secondly, Drico’s hair used to be peroxide blonde and awful, a perfect visual distillation of why Leinster were a bunch of preening softies who would never win anything.
Flash forward to the present day, where rugby shirts are sprayed on (and best avoided if your pre-match warm-up includes a few pints) and that same bottle blonde is renowned as one of the fiercest sporting competitors Ireland has ever produced – and the perfect representation of why Leinster are now serial winners.
The times they have a-changed.
And we all knew how this game’s script should go. Our brave hero Drico, along with his wise-cracking partner Leo “I’m too old for this shit” Cullen, would solve the mystery, steal the diamond, defuse the bomb, get the girl and score a last-minute touchdown.
But Drico’s scriptwriter finally dropped the ball. Years of plot twists, action, drama and the occasional tragedy had taken their toll. The well had run dry. This was the sporting equivalent of Hercule Poirot gathering everybody together in the drawing room and, just as he’s about to reveal who the murderer is, he suffers a calf injury, departs the scene and leaves everyone staring at each other awkwardly.
Or as Ryle Nugent put it: “The fairytale finale is going to come up a chapter short.”
Thankfully RTÉ resisted the urge to roll the credits right there and then. Ian Madigan came from the bench, and Leinster did what winners do. Seven trophies in six years. Not bad for a bunch of lady boys.
The send-off for O’Driscoll and Cullen may not have had a Hollywood ending, but it was a dignified ending, a happy ending. That’s more than most get in sport.