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Earls' candid claim: 'I can feel the snobbery and the falseness'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Seasoned Ireland international Keith Earls has spoken about the awkwardness he has felt when attending post-game dinners hosted by the IRFU in their lavish Shelbourne Hotel haunt in Dublin. Hailing from Moyross in Limerick, the 34-year-old with 93 Test caps has recently published his autobiography – Fight Or Flight, My Life, My Choices.

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In the book, Earls revealed how he was diagnosed as bipolar in 2013, how he told Munster coach Johann van Graan he was retiring with immediate effect in September 2020, and how from about 2017 until the end of 2020 that his lung capacity was only functioning at about 50 per cent due to his liver being affected by loosened ligaments which caused a breathing dysfunction.

Earls also touched at length on his upbringing in Limerick in an area of the city that suffered from having a bad reputation down through the years. The winger outlined how this discrimination hurt him when he was growing up, how from his childhood onwards he was picking up signals all the time that he was different from so-called normal society. 

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This feeling that Earls was different continued into his rugby career and he wrote in his autobiography about the discomfort this has caused, particularly when the IRFU hosts its post-Ireland match dinners in Dublin. 

“I’m not part of that social network,” wrote Earls. “I couldn’t have been born further from it. On the Saturday night of a home international, I’m in the Shelbourne Hotel with the squad, the IRFU officers, the alickadoos and the corporate guests and the society types. There’s the dinner and the speeches and the small talk and the back-slapping. But I don’t want to be there. 

“I want to be back in Kinsella’s in Thomondgate with my friends and family. That’s where I belong. I don’t belong in the Shelbourne. I’m way out of my comfort zone. I can feel the snobbery and the falseness. People only want to talk to you because you’re a player. They wouldn’t give you the time of day otherwise. Edel had situations where people were unbelievably condescending until they discovered she was Keith Earls’ partner. Then they’d change their tune. 

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“Don’t get me wrong. Not everyone in that environment is like that. You will meet some very genuine, warm people there. But to go from Moyross to social occasions like that is a massive journey to make for me. For years I found it intimidating.

“I had two huge learning curves. One was how to be an international player on the pitch, the other was how to be an international player off it. Being honest, I found the first easier than the second. I remember having to learn the whole etiquette of the dinner, the big banquet back in the fancy hotel.

“The first few times the waiter put the starter in front of me, I’d start eating it before the rest of the table was served. I didn’t know you should wait until everyone was served. I had to learn which glass was for water and which one was for wine. What were all the knives and forks for”

“One night the lads were asking for horseradish to go with their beef. So the next night, I can remember I was sitting next to John Hayes, I was having beef and I was asking the waiter if he could get me some horse hummus please. Some what? Horse hummus please. Well, the whole fuckn table erupted with the laughing. I got a desperate slagging. It’s funny now but at the time I was mortified.”

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Having had what he describes as his first proper pre-season in about five years, Earls is currently with the Ireland squad in Dublin preparing for their three-game Autumn Nations Series which opens this Saturday versus Japan at Aviva Stadium. 

 

  

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