What’s that coming over the hill?

This was originally published in the programme for the London Irish St Pat’s party match on March 28th.

A couple of weeks ago, I got asked to go on my mate Chris Corcoran’s BBC Wales radio show for the build-up to the Wales V Ireland game. He got me a couple of tickets to sweeten the deal. I’d not been to a six nations game since Scotland V Ireland in 2001. We were heavily fancied but still got an absolute spanking off our celtic brethren. I sat there with my dad, while the two Scottish women behind us spent the entire match discussing Malcolm O’Kelly in terms best described as ‘inappropriate for a family audience’. Say what you want about Austin Healy, he’s never shouted ‘Oh my God Morag, look at his thighs!’ in your ear for 80 minutes.

The match itself was a little tense, but nothing compared to an incident in the pre-game radio show. Chris had told me it was an outside broadcast, I must admit I hadn’t realised quite how ‘outside’ it would be. Myself, himself and his co-host Eggsy (from the band Goldie Lookin Chain – top bloke) were sitting around a table in a busy pedestrian thoroughfare while half of Cardiff walked by. At one point we interviewed a charmingly inebriated Irish gent from the crowd. When he was asked what he did for a living, he responded with politician. When Chris told him he had to give a real answer, he got haughty about it – turned out he was the 800th mayor of Limerick. I was born there so I’m allowed say it – being scuttering drunk before midday is no obstacle to political ambitions in that town.

90 minutes in, things were going very well. Too well.

I saw them first, looming into view over the horizon, like the massive invading space ships in Independence Day. The sun chose that moment to scamper for cloud cover, given the day a suddenly ominous chill. Brace yourself lads – it’s a female rugby team from Rathfarnam!

Imagine a hen do, a Viking hoard and the cast of Gremlins combined, you’re still nowhere close. They’d been drinking since about January. They grabbed microphones, instruments, musicians. The band were fresh-faced folk singers from the valleys, they’d not experienced anything like this before. Last I heard, the drummer is still refusing to come out of his room. I was useless. If I was able to calm down one drunken Irish woman, I might be still living there. 25 of them would require a UN peacekeeping force.

Luckily, Chris is an experienced broadcaster. He pushed a mic at the one who looked least likely to eat it, and started interviewing like his life, and future career in radio, depended on it. Then, in a stroke of sheer genius, he started Darren Browning them. He guessed their positions with extraordinary accuracy – so much so, that I think they became wary of his wizard-like powers. Next, he discussed the nicknames on their jerseys, at least the ones that appeared not to lead to the kind of anecdote that’d kill a promising broadcasting career stone dead. At one point, he asked about a nickname that was based around an Irish slang word he’d not heard. I waved him off it so vigorously, the producer cut to a song because he thought I was having a stroke. The ladies of Rathfarnam then realised one of them was in danger of sobering up, and rushed her to a pub for immediate treatment.  It was a fair omen for the match, magnificent Welsh defence won the day.

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