They are better known for scoring tries than tossing fries, but five of Munster’s finest last night cooked up a storm in aid of a Cork charity.
Donncha O’Callaghan, Ronan O’Gara, Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland and Simon Zebo took it in turns to be chefs, waiters, maitre d’ and till operators at Nando’s in Mahon Point shopping centre to raise funds for the Cork Simon community.
There are few stranger sights than Donncha O’Callaghan glaring angrily at a till with the kind of look he would normally reserve for his opposite number in the line-out.
“We are not used to working with that kind of machinery,” he admitted. “Normally its scrummaging machines as opposed to things that you have to engage your brains a bit to use.”
Meanwhile, his fellow 6ft 6in lock Donnacha Ryan stood helplessly in the middle of the restaurant floor carrying plates of food which made even his massive hands seem small.
Relief spread across his face a few seconds later when a comparatively diminutive waitress calmly guided him to the table of expectant diners who were awaiting the orders he bore.
In the open plan kitchen, a determined looking Ronan O’Gara was tossing chicken on a flaming grill with the sort of precision he normally reserves for the Munster backline, while in typical back-row fashion, Billy Holland dug in and cleared out the orders.
Meanwhile, it was unchartered territory for Simon Zebo as he switched his role in the backs for a front-of-house role where he welcomed the customers and escorted them to their tables.
All five took small breaks from their respective jobs to pose for photographs and autograph balls for excited fans young and old.
“Its a great thing to do,” said O’Callaghan. “All the money raised tonight is going to Cork Simon Community. I know the players are mad keen because its a Cork-run charity.
“To be fair every time we come into Nando’s we are spoiled by the staff and really looked after with good healthy food. We are delighted to do it.”
While both he and Zebo were yet to make their debuts on cooking duty, the role held no fears for either.
“As rugby players you probably have to be able to learn how to cook a bit otherwise you end up eating all sorts of rubbish,” said O’Callaghan.
Winger Zebo admitted the food bug was in his genes. “I’ve never worked in a kitchen, not even on the floor but it’s good craic,” he said. “But I am going to force my way back onto the grill and maybe steal a few chips off a few of the plates. My dad is a bit of a cook himself so he has passed on a few of his recipes to me so I’d be handy enough in the kitchen.”
The night may have been all a bit of fun in aid of charity, but as ever there was a bit of competition to add spice to the occasion.
Members of the Leinster team, including Brian O’Driscoll and Rob Kearney previously took on the same roles in a Nando’s store in the Dundrum Town Centre and, in advance of last night’s event, both players laid down a challenge on Twitter.
Brian O’Driscoll tweeted: “Good luck to the Cork boys in beating us in their #Nandostakeover tomorrow. Join them & help raise € for the Simon Community.”
Fellow Leinster player Rob Kearney added: “Game on for Cork boy!”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved