GAA Book Reviews

Deadlock: Dublin v Meath 1991

EOGHAN CORRY performs a little miracle of time travel in this effort, which on the cover looks like an account of one of the great clashes of the last few decades, Dublin-Meath in 1991.

That’d be entertaining enough, but he broadens the canvas entertainingly, bringing us back to an era following the 1990 World Cup, when fears were expressed that the groundswell of support for soccer following Italia ‘90, would drown the GAA.

Corry goes through the GAA’s response, covering the planned refurbishment of Croke Park, the explosion in media coverage – and, of course, the four games that gripped the nation in the summer of 1991.

The teams had strong, engaging characters such as Tommy Carr of Dublin and Meath’s Liam Hayes and Colm O’Rourke, and Corry’s handling of the background material – the embattled GAA of early 1991 – with close examination of match incidents make for an entertaining read.

Michael Moynihan

The must buy

This Is Our YearDeclan Bogue

€14.99 (Ballpoint Press)

THE book that has split a county — and had a country talking.

The book that sadly ended an inter-county career in Kevin Cassidy’s too. As much as he hemmed and hawed in the book about going on for another year, he told the Irish Examiner he had informed Jim McGuinness after the defeat to Dublin in August that it would be hard to leave.

What’s certain is because of his involvement with Declan Bogue in becoming the protagonist of this fine tome he was denied the opportunity to end his inter-county career on his own terms.

He didn’t break an omerta or a bond — what he was guilty of was defying a confidentiality contract.

Dublin, under Paul Caffrey, had done something similar in his last year in charge in 2008 with the Blue Book.

By the time someone had contravened that trust and handed the details to a national newspaper, Caffrey was gone and it didn’t really matter.

McGuinness is only beginning with Donegal and thereinappears to be the problem for him. Cassidy, in lifting the lid on such things as the 40 mobile phones being handed over before a game, on McGuinness’ depiction of John Brennan as arrogant, on the importance of the number 20 to the panel, had hurt his manager.

Reading Cassidy’s warts-and-all take on Donegal’s great year would have been riveting before he was cut from the panel but in the context of his departure it is now unmissable.

But the other eight or so stories in Bogue’s book are also worthy of attention.

Antrim’s Paddy Cunningham doesn’t hold back in his criticism of his manager Liam Bradley, with whom he is set to work with again in 2012.

Cavan duo Val Andrews and Terry Hyland offer some great yarns as well as some heartache.

Irish Examiner columnist Dick Clerkin’s tale of attempting to shrug off his bad boy persona is fascinating while Barry Owens’ dignity throughout the Fermanagh debacle this past year is illustrated effectively.

Stevie McDonnell’s raging against the light in Armagh makes for good reading as do the stories of Down’s Aidan Carr and Derry goalkeeper Michael Conlan which, although truncated, are compelling ones of a frustration.

In an era where managers have pulled down the shutters on getting close to players, it’s refreshing to see so many open up to Bogue. That is to the author’s credit and provides us with an unprecedented insight into the Ulster SF championship and beyond.

John Fogarty

The great read

Life, Death and Hurling

Michael Duignan and Pat Nolan

€15.99 (Irish Sports Publishing)

AT first glance this looks like a book that might have come a little late. The Offaly hurling side of the 1990s were everybody’s favourite second team at the time — Waterford seemed to take over that mantle at the turn of the decade — but at this remove, could a book sustain the interest?

It turns out that it could but that has little enough to do with the hurling. The clue is in the title of this book, particularly the middle part: Michael Duignan’s wife Edel died tragically young from cancer, leaving him with two young sons, and the book is a frank account of how he tried to deal with her loss and the challenge of raising his children.

There’s some hurling in it too, but it’s more than a sports book. A great read.

Michael Moynihan

Can’t go wrong with...

Doyle: The Greatest Hurling Story Ever Told

John Harrington

€15.99 (Irish Sports Publishing)

IT’S always been strange, the lack of books which emerged from Tipperary’s great side of the fifties and sixties, and particularly when one of the players collected eight All-Ireland medals on the field of play.

Now John Harrington has corrected the record with Doyle, the story of John Doyle of Holycross, one of the cornerstones of that side and a perennial selection on people’s greatest-ever hurling fifteens.

Harrington paints a vivid picture of Doyle’s hard childhood — his mother died weeks after his born — and sketches an engaging character in monumental clashes with Cork, Wexford and Kilkenny.

What sets this book apart, however, is the portrait of the man in full, with plenty of details coming courtesy of Doyle’s widow, Anne, and family. All too often GAA autobiographies omit the personality of the man in question but John Doyle — forthright, combative — has been well served by his county man, John Harrington.

Michael Moynihan

The GAA County By County

Mike Cronin, Mark Duncan and Paul Rouse

€29.99 (Collins Press)

HERE’S a particular challenge. The three authors involved here have been working on the GAA’s oral history project, and this is an offshoot of that project.

Credit goes to the authors, then, for steering clear of a drab accounting of games won, or a stodgy county-by-county retelling of conventions past.

Each county has a different approach, with stunning photographs fleshing out the memories shared by ordinary members of the GAA in each part. Whether it’s Mick O’Connell appearing as though out of the Atlantic itself, wrapped in rainproof coat, or the men counting out the takings from a championship match on a rock in Galway, there’s something here for everyone.

Don’t feel guilty about looking up your own county first, but our favourite second choice was the Leitrim chapter, with its graceful weaving of John McGahern’s memories into the story of the county itself.

Michael Moynihan

Without A Shadow Of A Doubt

Joe Kernan

€19.99 (Irish Sports Publishing)

THIS book has a little bit of everything. Armagh, Crossmaglen, the Troubles, coaching and of course Joe Kernan. In this autobiography written, with Martin Breheny, we get an insight into one of the most fascinating human interest stories the GAA can boast.

Kernan tracks his career from his playing days to the pressurised world of team management, first with his club and county, before a short spell with Galway.

At home he had to deal with personal tragedies, including the death of his father when he was a child, the suicide of his younger brother and the death of his infant son. Last year, he faced another major challenge when he was declared bankrupt.

For GAA fans, it’s a must.

Terry Reilly

Mick Mackey — Hurling Legend in a Troubled County

Henry Martin

€17.99 (Collins Press)

MICK MACKEY is a sporting giant, a man who, with his team-mates from the brilliant Limerick team of the 1930s, helped put hurling on the map. He is a national figure and this was an opportunity to bring to life to a national readership a man who in his day, in his native Limerick especially, was larger than life. Sad to say, it’s an opportunity missed.

Unlimited Heartbreak was Henry Martin’s debut book, and a superb read it was, going back the decades of all the near misses in Limerick hurling, an expose of much that was wrong. This book should rightfully have been called Unlimited Heartbreak – The Mackey Years.

There are far too many anonymous quotes on dark doings. Too broad a brush is used at times and even Mackey doesn’t escape being tarred by innuendo.

Still, a worthy read for Limerick supporters.

Diarmuid O’Flynn

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