Tuesday 12 December 2017

Reading between the lines

Liam Kelly runs the rule over this year's crop of sports books and picks out his top stocking fillers and the turkeys to avoid

Boxing: BERNARD DUNNE: My Story


THEME: The career of Bernard Dunne from the crushing low of a first-round defeat against Kiko Martinez to his epic world title fight with Ricardo Cordoba in Dublin and subsequent loss to Kratingdaenggym Poonsawat. Also reveals the invaluable education he received in Freddie Roach's world-famous Wildcard gym, and the extraordinary sacrifices a fighter has to make to reach the top.

GOOD READ? Middling at the start, but the pace picks up considerably as Bernard moves towards the peak of his career.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? History will show Dunne to be one of the most significant names in Irish boxing. His world title fight was the first in Dublin for 13 years and he has cleared the way for some big fights in the country in the future.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? By the end of his career, Dunne was a household name in Ireland and beyond, so it will appeal to beyond just the boxing fan.



Gaelic games


(Penguin Ireland) Christy O'Connor

THEME: Inside view of a year in the life of the St Joseph's Doora-Barefield GAA club in Ennis, Clare. Goalkeeper Christy O'Connor lifts the lid on the raw passion and emotion of an extraordinary 2009 campaign that was marked by personal and club tragedy. The story behind the tension felt by the management and team, plus the club politics, weaves a fascinating thread of narrative that works really well. Real people, ordinary folk, real world. No fairy tales here, but there's humour, pathos, and passion aplenty. The book won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award.

GOOD READ? Absolutely. Once you sort out who's who, you're drawn in and turning the pages to see how it all turns out.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? Yes. Hard to see how another GAA player can tell another story of a club in precisely the way O'Connor does.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Some 1,700 clubs and thousands of GAA members who will find a resonance with their own situation, particularly in hurling v football struggles at the club.



THE ECSTASY AND THE AGONY: The real story behind Waterford hurling

(Hatchette Books Ireland) Damien Tiernan

THEME: Everything you wanted to know about Waterford's climb from apathy to becoming a powerful force in hurling. And if you want to know why they haven't win an All-Ireland so far, Damien Tiernan's excellent work will tell you. Considering he's a die-hard fan, Tiernan, who is RTE's south-east correspondent, maintains an admirable level of detachment and interviews over 60 people, including the McCarthys, Justin and Gerald.

GOOD READ? No question about it. Top quality, engaging, and satisfying.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? Only drawback to becoming a classic is that non-Waterford people might make the mistake of thinking it's a parochial story that only Decies folk will want to read. Deserves a wider audience.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Should go well in Munster, given the cast of characters marching across the pages and in general GAA circles.


****DARRAGH: My Story

(Mainstream Publishing) Darragh O Se

THEME: Mighty Kerry midfielder Darragh O Se, who preferred to let his football do the talking during his medal-laden career, tells his story, but anyone looking for sensation won't find it here. O Se keeps it simple and balanced. If he gets a skelp off an opponent or gives one, there's no bad feeling afterwards. And unlike Dan Shanahan, you won't find Darragh telling you he came close to lamping manager Jack O'Connor!

GOOD READ? Decent enough, but no bite in it.


READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Young players in Kerry will enjoy it.

Star Rating?



(Transworld Ireland)

THEME: Life story of Dan The Man, who was born in Cork of all places, but brought up in Lismore. Tells his side of the issues with Justin McCarthy and Davy Fitzgerald and reveals he thought about thumping the latter...but didn't. Also was one of seven who voted in favour of Justin staying at the time of the famous heave in June, 2008.

GOOD READ? Solid and interesting without being world-shattering.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? Won't be a classic of the genre.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? A Christmas buy for young and old in Waterford.

Star Rating?



(Mercier) Donal Keenan

THEME: Who would have thought that so many brothers have played at such a high level in the GAA? Keenan delves deep to bring the stories of, among others, the Brogans of Dublin, the Lyons of Meath, the O Se clan of Kerry, the Hendersons of Kilkenny.

GOOD READ? Yes. Sibling rivalry and family pride and achievement combine to make a story with a difference.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? Should do, particularly given the family and community based nature of the GAA.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Should have wide appeal to GAA followers.




MONTY'S MANOR: Colin Montgomerie and the Ryder Cup

(Yellow Jersey Press) Iain Carter

THEME: BBC Golf Correspondent Iain Carter charts Colin Montgomerie's Ryder Cup story, starting with Kiawah Island in 1991 and concluding with the recent victory as captain of Europe at Celtic Manor. Carter diligently covers the ground using old stories, his own interviews, press conferences and reportage of the various Ryder Cups and incidents in Monty's career.

GOOD READ? Well written and well put together, but strangely unsatisfying. You don't get into Monty's head because he's not telling the story.


READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Should do ok in Monty's house.



TWO TRIBES: The Rebirth of the Ryder Cup

(Atlantic Books) Gavin Newsham

THEME: As it says on the cover, the book is mainly focused on the revival of the Ryder Cup as a serious contest from 1979 once Europe joined with Britain and Ireland.

GOOD READ? Only if you know very little about the Ryder Cup or wish to be reminded of all those past years. Decent writing, author has enthusiasm for his subject, but nothing new in it.


READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Stocking filler for wives and girlfriends who can't think of anything else to get their golf-mad husband/partner.




(Primary ABC) Shane O'Donoghue

THEME: Amateur golfers who made a significant impact at home and abroad. Joe Carr, Mary McKenna and Garth McGimpsey are included and there's a bonus CD with interviews of some of those featured, plus contributions from such luminaries as Peter Alliss and Padraig Harrington.

GOOD READ? Very good, well researched and presented with significant photographs.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? Insightful and valuable addition to Irish golfing literature.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Anyone interested in Irish golf.





(Orion) Ruby Walsh

THEME: Life story of Ruby Walsh, a great jockey with over 1,800 winners to his credit. He's the only jockey to have won all four Grand Nationals on these islands. Ups and downs -- at times literally, in the sense of broken bones -- of a great career, plus insight to the trainers and horses and the racing scene.

GOOD READ? Yes -- and all the more so because a non-horse racing fan can still enjoy it.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? Engaging story that will resonate with racing fans for a long time.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? A definite for the racing fans, but can reach a wider audience.



WHEN BOBBY MET CHRISTY: The story of Bobby Beasley and a Wayward Horse

(The Collins Press) Declan Colley

THEME: Intriguing tale of a complicated man who happened to be a jockey, and a horse named Captain Christy. Reality aplenty, as Beasley descended into alcoholism, but recovered to make a heart-warming comeback. His 1974 Cheltenham Gold Cup win at age 38 on Captain Christy was dramatic in the extreme, as the horse nearly fell at the last hurdle, but came through to win.

GOOD READ? Fascinating.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? Deserves to do so. Enduring theme of loss and redemption, and yet doesn't make Beasley out to be a saint.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Racing folk of a more mature vintage mainly.




LANSDOWNE THROUGH THE YEARS: From Lansdowne Road to Aviva

(Hatchette Books Ireland) Edward Newman

THEME: Rugby's greatest moments at Lansdowne Road told through the eyes of mighty men including Jack Kyle, Tom Kiernan, Bertie O'Hanlon and Jim McCarthy, Ciaran Fitzgerald, Ollie Campbell, Tony Ward, Colin Meads, Michael Lynagh and, yes, even Martin Johnson!

GOOD READ? Very good, entertaining and informative.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? Yes. Pivotal work that links transition from 'old' Lansdowne Road stadium to 21st century Aviva.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Anyone who ever attended rugby internationals at Lansdowne Road will enjoy it.




(Irish Sports Publishing)

THEME: Former Ireland and Leinster hooker Bernard Jackman takes us through his career, ranging from the Carlow man being awarded one of the first professional contracts through to his final game with Leinster. Significant emphasis on Michael Cheika's reign in Donnybrook and Jackman's turbulent relationship with the Aussie.

GOOD READ? Absolutely. In many ways the first of its kind to lift the lid on Irish professional rugby. It deals with everything from player salaries to the Munster-Leinster rivalry and the characters in the provincial and Ireland dressing-rooms.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? Well-crafted and relevant as Jackman was among the first cohort of rugby players to become professionals. His retirement due to an unsustainable series of concussions raises a warning flag for the game.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Not a complicated read, so rugby fans from a young age could enjoy this but it also has a wider sporting appeal.



RED BLOODED The Alan Quinlan Story

(Irish Sports Publishing)

THEME: Munster and Ireland's Alan Quinlan tells his story from harum-scarum kid to top level of rugby. Reality of a top-level sportsman is revealed as he suffered many serious injuries and missed the Lions trip due to that incident with Leo Cullen. But very engaging, honest, and self-reflective guy who lifts the lid on his inner demons in a way that most sportsmen wouldn't.

GOOD READ? Decent.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? Has a value for the insight to the mental pressures in a macho sport such as rugby.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Big in Munster, but a good read for all rugby followers.




JOHN GILES A football man: The Autobiography

(Hatchette Books Ireland)

THEME: Giles at 70 reflects on his life and talks about his origins in Dublin, going to Manchester United, his time at Leeds United, West Brom, Ireland and RTE. Football defined him and continues to define him -- and he gives his side of the story in the infamous Brian Clough saga of 1974. Leeds were arguably the most disliked team in English football for years, but Giles reminds us of how successful they actually were.

GOOD READ? Sound rather than spectacular memoir of football in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. Giles' coolly analytical character, unimpressed by reputation or hype, comes through clearly.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? Yes, particularly as the book relates to an era when players and managers were basically treated as serfs by directors.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Should be considerable across Ireland, in Leeds and Birmingham.



RYAN GIGGS: My Life, My Story


THEME: Ryan Giggs, wonderful player, great professional, tells his life story. Only he doesn't. You get a colourful book packed with photographs with anecdotes related to the photos.

GOOD READ? Bland text, nice photos.


READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Probably huge with young United fans!

Star Rating?



(Irish Sports Publishing) Paul Keane

THEME: Quirky subject, but a good one. The story of the most impressive and intriguing results achieved by League of Ireland clubs in Europe, ranging from Shamrock Rovers v Man United's Busby Babes of 1957, through Athlone Town v AC Milan in 1975 to Shelbourne's 2004 side which came so close to qualifying for the Champions League Group stages. Lots of insider views from a host of interviewees.

GOOD READ? Yes, particularly for home soccer fans young and old.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? Deserves to, as it's well researched and is a timely contribution to Irish Soccer's history.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Possibly limited to die-hard League of Ireland fans.



STUTTGART TO SAIPAN: The Players' Stories

(Mentor Books) Miguel Delaney

THEME: Irish Soccer Team 1986-2002. Interviews with 10 players who were involved during that Golden Era. Subjects include Mark Lawrenson, Liam Brady, Packie Bonner, Alan Kernaghan, and Matt Holland. The players' recollections string the era together.

GOOD READ? Fair to middling.

WILL IT STAND THE TEST OF TIME? Tough to stay relevant in the crowded market which already includes the life stories of Roy Keane, Niall Quinn and Mick McCarthy, who were central figures in the story of 1986-2002.

READERSHIP POTENTIAL? Possibly more appeal for younger soccer fans.



Irish Independent

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