Ross O’Carroll-Kelly will kick off his Rugby career in a new book ‘Game of Throw-ins’ next month.
Ross is a fictional character from an upper class south county Dublin home created by journalist Paul Howard. The Ross O’Carroll-Kelly franchise comprises of a total of 19 books, three plays and an ongoing newspaper column in the Irish Times.
At the opening night of his play ‘Breaking Dad’ Howard revealed the plot of his new book –
‘What happens is, he’s at the Castlerock College old boys’ annual Mass and he bumps into this priest who thinks Ross is Brian O’Driscoll. As a result Ross goes into this dark period of self-loathing where he knows he could have been a contender but he blew it. So he decides that at 35 years he’s going to go back to playing rugby in Division 2B of the All Ireland League. But his ambitions are much more scaled down, he doesn’t want to win 6 Nations and Heineken Cups, now all he wants is to stop Seapoint being relegated.’
Here is the blurb: I was a rugby player with a great future behind me. A 35-year-old father-of-five with an expanding waistline, who was trying to survive the bloody battlefield we call everyday life. My son was locked in a violent turf war with a rival Love/Hate tour operator, my daughter was in love with a boy who looked like Justin Bieber and my old dear was about to walk up the aisle with a 92-year-old billionaire who thought it was still 1936. I was, like, staring down the barrel of middle age with the contentment of knowing that I was the greatest Irish rugby player who no one in Ireland had ever actually heard of. Until a chance conversation with an old Jesuit missionary made me realize that it wasn’t enough. I was guided, as if by GPS, to a muddy field in – let’s be honest – Ballybrack. And there I finally discovered my destiny – to keep a struggling Seapoint team in Division 2B of the All Ireland League. Or die trying.
An extract from the book was just released by Penguin book. Read the extract below.
Or if you don’t want to read listen to them here:
The other players are checking me out in a big-time way. We’re in the dressing room in Seapoint – well, let’s be honest, Ballybrack – and I can feel them all just, like, staring at me. It’s like your first day at school. Or your first day in a new job, for people who have to work for a living.
They’re all even younger than I thought they’d be – we’re talking, like, late teens and early twenties.
I’m seriously feeling my age here.
The famous Byrom Jones goes, “Alroyt iverybodoy, lusten up. I want to introjoyce yoy to someone whoyse goying to boy troyning with us tonoyt. I want yoy all to give a vurry spicial Seapoint willcome to this goy here.”
Someone goes, “Who the fock is he?” just sending me a message that reputations count for very little out here.
“His noym,” Byrom goes, “is Russ Akerell-Killoy. Naah I’ve talked to one or toy poyple in the goym and lit me till yoy this goy was a vurry bug doyl indoyd back in the 1990s.”
“Yeah, so were his boots,” someone goes – he’s a big dude, we’re talking 22, maybe 23 years old. I’m guessing he’s either a loosehead or a tighthead prop? Everyone laughs. “Sorry, Dude, what the fock are you wearing on your feet?”
I look him straight in the eye. I go, “They’re Adidas Christophe Lamaison Pro Fly Eight-Studs,” and I say it in a real fock-you kind of way.
He’s there, “Christophe Lamaison? Who the fock is Christophe Lamaison?”
The worst thing is that he seems to mean it? I just look at him as if to say, you obviously know fock-all about history if you can ask question like that.
Byrom’s like, “Guv hum a broyk, Bucky.”
The dude – Bucky, he’s obviously called – goes, “Look, as the captain of this team, I think I’m entitled to ask who the fock he is and why the fock he’s training with us?”
Byrom goes, “We noyd someone to full un for Rowellsoy. He’s got a broyken toy.”
“Whoa, you’re talking about putting this dude between me and Maho in the front row?”
“For fock’s sake – he must be, like, 40.”
I’m there, “I’m actually 35.”
He laughs and he turns to the rest of the dressing room. “Correction,” he goes, “he’s 35!” like there’s no real difference.
He’s being a real dick.
He goes, “Look, no offence, whatever your name is, but we can’t afford to carry middle-aged men who are trying to rediscover the glory of their youth. This is Division 2B of the All Ireland League.”
“Correction,” I go. “It’s the bottom of Division 2B of the All Ireland League.”
Whoa! That’s softened his focking cough. There’s suddenly, like, deathly silence in the dressing room.
He goes, “Repeat that.”
“I said it’s the bottom of Division 2B of the All Ireland League,” I go. “I’ve seen the table – ten matches, zero points.”
He goes, “You’ve got a focking nerve,” and he makes a move towards me.
Some other humungous dude steps in between us, going, “He’s not worth it, Bucky. Save it for out there. Let’s see how good he is.”
Bucky just glowers at me. I’ve pissed him off – there’s no doubt about that.
So we all trot out onto the pitch. It’s a dork, freezing cold night in January and it straight away brings me back to my school days.
No one talks to me during the warm-up. I try to strike up a conversation with one or two of the younger players while we’re doing our Dynamic Stretches, except they all just, like, blank me. I’m just some old fort to them. Then I just think, fock it, I’m not here to make friends anyway and I get on with my lunges and my squats and my various other bits and pieces.
We do some ball-handling work – which I love – then Byrom splits us up into backs and forwards and, purely out of habit, I end up wandering over to where the backs are standing.
“Yeah,” this Bucky dude shouts at me, “maybe ten focking years ago!” and I suddenly realize my mistake.
I walk over to where I’m supposed to be.
We do some work with the scrum machine. It turns out that Bucky is the tighthead and the dude who stopped us going at it in the dressing room – Maho – is the loosehead. As the three of us are doing the whole binding thing, Bucky squeezes my shoulder and goes, “Jesus Christ, you’ve no muscle there. It’s just focking fat.”
It’s just, like, mind games. I ignore it.
“Crouch!” Byrom shouts and we all get into formation. “Pause! Engage!”
We put our shoulders to the pads and we stort shunting the thing forwards.
The entire time, Bucky is in my ear, going, “Are you not going to put any meat into it? You might as well sit on the focking thing and let us push you around!”
This goes on the entire time that we’re scrummaging.
Twenty minutes, maybe half an hour later, Byrom says he wants us to switch to lineouts, which is what we do.
This is where I end up winning over possibly one or two of the doubters, because I’ve got an unbelievable throw and I always did. Even back in the day, my lineout throws were better than Oisinn’s and he was our first choice hooker.
I’m not good enough for Bucky, of course. Every time he goes up for the ball, he deliberately drops it. He goes, “He’s putting a wobble on it.”
I’m like, “There’s no wobble on these balls I’m throwing.”
He goes, “What, you’re saying I can’t catch a ball cleanly in an uncontested lineout?” and he says it like his next line is going to be a punch.
I’m there, “I don’t know what you can and can’t do, Bucky. All I do know is that, the way things stand, you’re going to be doing it in Division 3B of the All Ireland League next season.”
He just, like, stares me out of it.
Byrom claps his hands together and goes, “Alroyt, Oy think we’ve done enough work for tonoyt.”
I don’t mind telling you that by the end of the session I’m focked. The old man was right. The game has moved on. These goys are just kids, but they tackle twice as hord as we did and they run for twice as long.
The session ends with what they call the Captain’s Run? Basically, the coach stands down and the entire team spends, like, ten or fifteen minutes, running lengths of the field, passing the ball from man to man in two or three groups, just to shorpen up everyone’s handling.
Byrom calls me to one side. He goes, “Good work, moyte. They were prutty haahd on yoy, thoy.”
I’m there, “Hey, if I was Bucky and some total randomer was suddenly parachuted into my team, I’d probably react the same way. It’s port and porcel.”
“Yoy stroyk moy as being a prutty strong goy – mintally, Oy moyn.”
I’m there, “Yeah, no, not a lot would faze me – at least on the rugby field. I’ve seen most things.”
He nods. He goes, “Bucky’s a good bloyk. Uf he gits to loyk yoy, he’d walk throy a ployt glass windoy for yoy.”
“Well, he doesn’t seem to like me.”
“Oy’ll till you something, thoy – what you sid to hum before, abaaht boying bottom of the All Oyerland Loyg, it shook hum aaht of hus comfort zoyne. Shook thum all. That’s the bist they’ve troyned for a long toyme.”
I’m there, “Well, I’m glad I helped, even if that ends up being my only contribution.”
“What do yoy moyn?”
“Look, it’s pretty clear that I’m not welcome here. And maybe I have to also accept that game has moved on? The intensity and blah, blah, blah.”
“What uf Oy told yoy I wanted yoy to ploy against Bictov at the woykend?”
“Bictov. At hoym. Oy’d toytally understind if yoy thought it was beyond yoy. But Oy’ve soyn something here tonoyt. Yoy shook thungs up. Oy loyk that abaaht yoy. Ut’s what this toym noyds.”
“I don’t know. I think I just pissed a lot of people off.”
“Good, moyte. That’s what Oy want. Look, we’re gitting relegoytud – nothing surer. We’ve got, like, eight mitches luft in the soyson. We need to wun foyve of them to have any hoype of stoying up. Loyk Oy sid, what’s more likeloy to happen is that we goy throy the whoyl year without wunning a sungle mitch and we drop daahn a divusion next year and moyst of these goys will just druft away from the goym.”
“I wouldn’t want to see that. I was a major loss to the game myself.”
“Thin doyn’t guv up naah. Moyte, Oy’ve soyn something in yoy and Oy’m a prutty good judge of a ployer. Alroyt, you’re not twinty or twinty-toy loyk the rist of the goys. But yoy’ve got the toy moyst important attribyoots we’re looking for…”
“Is one of them the option I offer as a back-up kicker?”
“Naah, what Oy’m talking abaaht is experience and goyle.”
“What was the second word?”
I’ve never really known what that even is. He can see I’m still in two minds.
And that’s when he says the most unbelievable thing.
“Moyte,” he goes, “Oy doyn’t care uf yoy doyn’t beloyve yoy can doy thus – Oy beloyve you caahn.”
Father Fehily used to say something similar to us: “Of course there’ll be times when you’ll stop believing in yourself. In those moments, I’ll just have to believe enough in you for both of us.”
So what else am I going to say in that moment, except, “Okay, I’ll see you Saturday.”
I join the Captain’s Run then. I join the backs, rather than Bucky’s group. So it’s just, like, me and four or five or the goys are just running lengths of the pitch in formation, feeding the ball to each other.
Senny, the team’s number ten, happens to be the player inside me. I was watching him practice his kicks earlier. I turn to him and I go, “I was looking at you splitting the old chopsticks earlier on. I hope you don’t mind me mentioning it, but I noticed one or two things you could improve on in terms of your technique.”
And that’s when it happens. Someone hits me from behind. At first, I think someone has driven a van onto the pitch and knocked me focking down, because that’s literally what it feels like? All of the wind goes out of my body and I hit the deck.
I swear to fock, for a good thirty seconds, I’m lying there on my back wondering am I actually dead.
I can feel this, like, heavy weight bearing down on me. When I finally dare to open my eyes open, I discover that Bucky is on top of me, pinning me to the deck. He’s a big dude as well. I genuinely feel like I’m trapped under rubble.
“We might be bottom of Division 2B of the All Ireland League,” he goes, “but if you ever call me out like that again in front of my teammates, I will focking finish you. Do you understand me?”
I’m like, “Yeah, fock, whatever.”
He gets up off me.
He goes, “Okay, everyone – the Captain’s Run is over.”
Everyone drifts off in the direction of the dressing room. I’m lying on the flat of my back in the middle of a field in let’s be honest Ballybrack. I’m staring up at the stors, but at the same time, I’m still buzzing on what Byrom Jones said to me.
It takes me a good, like, thirty seconds for me to get back up, then I quite literally limp back to the cor.
I’m beyond exhausted and in serious pain. And I haven’t felt this happy in a long, long time.