“I wouldn’t be a big reader but I’d read autobiographies, and I’m a huge Brian O’Driscoll fan. I admired him from very early on. I know very little about rugby but like everyone else I can recognise a superstar when I see one. I don’t think anybody could have had a better career than him. His pain threshold was exceptional.
“He had everything — he was brave. He had brilliant skill and a brilliant rugby mind. He didn’t have a weak link in his armour. He carried himself well. He was good for rugby and he was good for the country. He was an iconic figure.”
“I have to really reach for this one because I’ve moved house and all my books are everywhere, and I’ve also been finishing writing a book. Some of the books I read are 50 years old. I read Colin Barrett’s Young Skins, which is as interesting as prose can be.
“I’m not alone in thinking he’s fantastic. From sentence to sentence, his writing is really alive. It feels very unforced, but very well crafted.
“The way it reads in England, they’re amazed that poor people are acting clever, but in Ireland we write poor people clever all the time. He cuts across all kinds of boundaries of class and education to produce immensely tender portraits of living characters.”
“I love his take on things – his quirky point of view. He writes brilliantly about the people at the margins, at the edges of things, and about rural Ireland. He’s part John Healy, the great journalist who wrote very passionately about things rural — Michael writes partly from that perspective.
“He’s also extremely funny in a very droll way. He makes me laugh, which very few writers do. I know if I sit down with a Michael Harding book I’m going to have a laugh.”
“If Ever You Go is an extraordinary, full-hearted celebration of the city in which I’ve been living temporarily for the last 25 years. It’s a virtual tour of the city — you’ve street singers, ballad-makers, living poets, dead poets, Joyce, Beckett, Clarke, and a whole load of new poets and all the established poets of the day who have written about Dublin.
One of the lovely things is it’s broken down by postal district so if you’re in Dublin, wherever you find yourself, whether it’s the Liberties or Finglas or Sean McDermott St or Blanchardstown, there’s a poem or a song about it. It’s one of the best portraits of the city.”
“I liked his candour. His story is well told — who he is and where he’s coming from makes real sense. It’s not a confabulation. He’s pugnacious, combative. His partying involved that term ‘partying hard’. His line is ‘It was the ’70s. What do you think I was doing?’
“On the one hand, he was this ferocious competitor and on the other hand he was going out having a good time. Frankly, the lifestyle sounds unbelievably appealing compared to what it is now. It’s refreshing and you get his description of his rivalry with John McEnroe. They were two guys that were too similar and he had to dislike everybody anyway. That’s what fuelled him.”