Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: One last time into the Six Nations breach with the old man
I say it every year. I can’t go through another championship sitting next to the old focker
Never again. Every March, when the championship is over, I decide that’s it.
I’m ringing the IRFU to ask them to move me to another part of the ground, far away from the Lower West Stand, where the old man has sat since 1969, within shouting distance of both the Irish bench and, in more recent years, the coach’s box, from which position he has managed to piss off 16 successive Irish coaches, from Ronnie Dawson to, yes, even the cool and unflappable Joe Schmidt.
That happened two years ago. We were at home to France and the game was tight. Between sips from his hip flask, the old man storted up this chant of, “Stealth, Ireland! Stealth! Stealth! Stealth! Stealth! Stealth! Stealth! Stealth!” and he didn’t seem to mind at all that nobody was joining in.
Now, that coach’s box is supposed to be soundproofed. But when I looked over my shoulder, I could see poor Joe’s head was up, studying the crowd, trying to find where the distraction was coming from.
“Stealth!” the old man continued shouting. “Stealth! Stealth! Stealth! Stealth!”
Ireland v Scotland 1982Cian Healy
I said it that day. Never again.
The old man has been embarrassing me at rugby matches since before I had the words to tell him to cop himself on. The first match he ever took me to was Ireland v Scotland in 1982. A Triple Crown year. I’d just turned two and thankfully I have no memory of it. But I’m told on good authority that he kept holding me up above his head and shouting at Ollie Campbell: “The future is in safe hands, Ollie! Ross O’Carroll-Kelly – a young 10 in the making!”
I was too young to say it but I’m sure I must have thought it. Never again.
Ireland v Australia 1991Rugby World CupGordon HamiltonCole HaanLeitrim
My old man was still arguing with him, reminding him that it was he who paid his wages, when Michael Lynagh went down the other end and scored the winner. We missed it. I said that was the last time I’d ever go to a match with him.
Ireland v England 1999Castlerock CollegeNewbridgeLeinster
Gatland never showed up for the final and I couldn’t blame him.
And I said it. Same thing. He’s on his own from here on.
Ireland v England 2003Martin Johnson
When England storted to run away with it in the second half, the old man switched his attention to poor Eddie O’Sullivan. “The man who could have made all the difference today is sitting beside me in the stand!”
Yeah, for the last time, I thought. Definitely for the last time.
I’m pretty sure it was after that match that coaches storted to sit in their own little soundproofed rooms. But it didn’t do any good. The old man has a voice that could pierce Kevlar. Ask Declan Kidney.
Ireland v France 2009
At that point I hadn’t had a rugby ball in my hands for about nine years and I was drinking like a rock star. Didn’t stop poor Declan having to listen to it for the next four years, though.
And every year I said that’s it. I’m out. I’m never going with him again. I said it last year as well. He can bring someone else. He’s an embarrassment. And I meant it.
But then he arrived at the house the other day and he went, “Got the tickets, Ross! France and England at home this year, eh?”
And I was about to tell him what he could do with his tickets. But then he went, “You know, you and I, Ross, will never, ever reach that point that many fathers and sons do, where we have nothing of passionate interest to say to one another. I really feel sorry for people who don’t have rugby in their lives.”
And what could I say except, “Okay, leave the tickets on the mantelpiece. But this is the last year I’m ever sitting beside you. I mean it this time. Never again.”