Love, crime and blackmail - a novel take on life as Dubs star
A FORMER county footballer who played against some of Ireland's top GAA stars has recreated the atmosphere of big games in a novel about sports, crime, love and the pressures facing young people.
Blue Star Rising, by Keith Ryan, recounts an exciting period in the life of fictitious Dublin star Dickie Boyle, whose preparations for the All-Ireland football final against Kerry are disrupted when he and his girlfriend Davina are caught up in a bloody armed robbery.
Ryan drew on his experiences as a pivotal player in the ascent of the Wicklow footballers from Division Four to Division Two in the early 1980s to describe the feeling of playing in front of tens of thousands of passionate football fans in Croke Park and other venues.
He was a "superfit" left half-back when his team played Kevin Heffernan's Dublin in the Leinster championship in 1981.
Ryan recalled successfully marking the late Anton O'Toole, known as The Blue Panther, in the game which ended with a slim two-point Dublin win.
The Herald headline after the game declared "Garden County shake Dubs to roots".
The writer was principal of Synge Street CBS secondary school in Dublin's inner city from 2002 to 2005 and of Oatlands College in Mount Merrion for eight years until his retirement six years ago.
The young hero of the novel spent his early years in a troubled family in the inner city before being fostered by an affluent couple in the southside suburbs.
"The story involves sport but is also about a young person's search for his own identity. There's a tension as he has two different families," said the author.
The footballer character also ends up being blackmailed by a Dublin crime gang.
"The story is set mainly in the early 1990s, but things haven't changed too much when you see the violence in the news these days," said Ryan.
"Schools can be a sanctuary in communities that are troubled by violence. Criminals who manipulate young people are the real scourge of Irish society."
Both Synge Street and Oatlands schools produced some great players.
When the writer was a student at Trinity, he captained its Gaelic football team in 1977. It included Dublin stars Robbie Kelleher, Tommy Drumm and Jim Brogan.
"I was always interested in the psychology behind being a top sports person and the pressure it can bring. I juxtaposed that with a young person who also had other pressures to deal with," he said.
Blue Star Rising is published by Ryan's company, Camaderry Press.