Subscriber OnlyRoss O'Carroll-Kelly

‘You are not having a hort attack! I’m not allowing it!’

Seriously, the Leinster Padel Championships make the Hunger Games look like Sports Day in Newpork Comprehensive

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Réaltín smiles. Which might well be a first for her. Yeah, no, we’re in Baldoyle of all places, playing Thor Frimann and Lisa Murray – the reigning champions – in the semi-finals of the mixed doubles at the Leinster Padel Championships. It’s, like, one set apiece and we’re winning 5-4 in the third.

Thor is banjoed – he went over on his ankle after about ten minutes – but the dude is determined to be carried off on his shield. He’s hobbling around the court, determined to give it everything he’s got, while Réaltín is focking with his head in a major way.

She goes, “It looks like ligaments. You could be doing yourself permanent damage.”

This is after lobbing him to go 15-30 up and we’re, like, two points away from victory.

She’s like, “You really should go to A&E.”

“You are not going to A&E,” Lisa tells him. “Pain is psychological.”

The Leinster Padel Championships are no place for sentiment.

Réaltín looks at me and goes, “Play every ball to him”, like I hadn’t thought of it myself, like I never spent my time on the rugby pitch testing the opposition defence for weakness, like the T-Rexes testing the fences in Jurassic Pork.

I’m there, “Yeah, no, I’ve got this, Réaltín”, and I return his serve, aiming the ball straight at him.

He pulls a winning shot out of nowhere – and I’m going to have to say fair focks here – jumping to one side and, in the same movement, sending the ball back with an unbelievable backhand and now it’s 30-30. It costs him a lot, though. He literally howls in pain.

“My mother has arthritis”, Réaltín tells him across the net. “She’s in a wheelchair.”

Which is horseshit. She told me the woman teaches yogalates three mornings a week in Ashgrove Industrial Estate and she finished fourth in the Women’s Mini Marathon – which, by the way, made her a “focking loser” in Réaltín’s eyes.

“Don’t let her inside your head,” Lisa tells him. “Just focus on the next point.”

The dude serves and I’m just about to send the ball back across the net to him when Réaltín suddenly steps in front of me and steals the shot from me, hitting the ball with a force that almost blows a hole in the back wall.

I’m like, “I had that, Réaltín”, but she tells me to grow up.

She’s like, “It’s match-focking-point – what’s your problem?”

I’m there, “I’ve no problem – ” but then I stop because I notice I’m suddenly struggling to catch my breath.

“Wait”, I go as Thor prepares to serve. “Just give me… a second here.”

Lisa’s there, “Don’t give him a second”, because she’s an animal and I’m saying that as a compliment to the woman. “Show them no mercy.”

“The fock is wrong with you?” Réaltín goes.

I’m there, “I’m having… palpitations.”

She goes, “It’s just adrenaline – you can smell victory”, like I haven’t been in a situation like this before, like I never won a Leinster Schools Senior Cup winners medal with Castlerock College, or kicked the conversion that stopped Seapoint Rugby Club from being relegated from Division 2B to Division 2C of the All Ireland League.

I’m there, “It’s not… adrenaline… I think I’m having… a hort attack”.

Réaltín goes, “You are not having a hort attack! I’m not allowing it! Not now! Not after coming this far!”

Lisa’s like, “Do you want to concede the match?”

Réaltín’s there, “No, we don’t,” and then she glowers at me and goes, “I probably put a bit too much of the stuff in your smoothie.”

I’m like, “What is… the stuff?”

“You don’t need to know that.”

“Réaltín, I’ve watched… enough hospital dramas… over the years… to know… that the first thing… they’ll ask me… in the emergency room… is what have I taken.”

“Emergency room? Will you grow a pair. It’s just your hort rate.”

Lisa goes, “Just serve it, Thor. If he’s having a hort attrack, that’s his tough shit.”

Seriously, the Leinster Padel Championships make the Hunger Games look like Sports Day in Newpork Comprehensive.

“Are you ready?” Thor goes.

“Yeeeeees!” Réaltín goes, because we’ve won – we’re in the actual final

Réaltín’s like, “Come on – for fock’s sake. Are you a winner or a loser?”

I’m there, “I’m… a winner”.

And she goes, “Suck in some air then and prove it to me”.

Thor serves the ball and I return it and at the same time I move towards the net like a soldier chorging a machinegun nest. Thor gives the ball a fair old wallop but I’m right there to send it back. Lisa somehow manages to return it – high, as it happens. I jump up in the air with my racket above my head and I bring it down so hord that the ball hits the floor, then the back wall and finishes up on our side of the court?

“Yeeeeees!” Réaltín goes, because we’ve won – we’re in the actual final.

And that’s when the most random thing happens. Réaltín wouldn’t be one for public displays of affection. As a matter of fact, I put an encouraging orm around her shoulder in one match and ten seconds later I was pinned to the floor face-down while she whispered in my ear, “You try that again, Weinstein, and you lose a testicle.”

I listen to Réaltín sort of, like, sobbing to herself, then I go, ‘Hey, come on – we’ve still got a final to win’

But she throws her two orms around me and she pulls me close to her and she goes, “It’s fine – you can hug me back,” and I sort of, like, pat her back like I’m testing a hob for hotness.

She’s like, “Hug me properly – we’re in the final,” so I just go with it.

We end up standing there for, like, a full minute, or maybe even two. Thor and Lisa have focked off and we’re still standing there, holding each other like – I want to say – lovers?

I listen to Réaltín sort of, like, sobbing to herself, then I go, “Hey, come on – we’ve still got a final to win.”

In that moment, I open my eyes and I’m suddenly having palpitations again. Because over her shoulder, I can see a figure standing about twenty feet away from us and I can see that it’s Sorcha.

“So,” she goes, “this is what you’ve been getting up to behind my back.”

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

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