To mark World Book Day, we asked Irish sports stars for their favourite reads.
Shane Dowling (Limerick hurler)
I’d be a man for autobiographies and Tony McCoy’s My Autobiography is the best I’ve read. He’s a remarkable man and the book really gives you an insight into the levels he went to, the sacrifices he made to be the best in the business. He’s just a phenomenal sportsman and the book does him justice and gives the reader what you hope for: What makes the man tick and what makes him great.
Sean Tobin(International athlete)
I first discovered John Grisham’s work when I was on scholarship at the University of Mississippi, Ole Miss, the same college he went to for his master’s degree. He wrote most of his stuff living in the same town — Oxford — I was based during my time there. On a training camp in Australia the last few months I came across my favourite work of his: The Testament. It’s about a lawyer setting off to the Amazon to find a long-lost relative who is heir to a fortune, and I flew through it in two days. It truly took me into a different world.
Donal O’Grady (All-Ireland winning Cork manager and RTÉ pundit)
A book I enjoyed recently — though I have it a couple of years — was Doyle: The Greatest Hurling Story Ever Told by John Harrington, about Tipperary great John Doyle. One thing that appealed to me was the detail about life away from the games. A lot of those players had hard jobs and hurling was very much a break for them. There’s a real sense here of the fun a team knocks out of being together. Training ended with a long sprint that time and Doyle, who was hugely competitive, always won that sprint. One evening, Mackey McKenna, a great character, challenged Doyle to a race, to the delight of the whole team. Mackey won, and you can imagine the slagging that went on for a long time afterwards. It rang true with anyone who ever played team sports.
Patrick Mullins (Jockey)
My favourite book is a series called The Wheel Of Time , written by Robert Jordan. I remember finding the first book called The Eye Of The World in the library at school. Unfortunately, the author died before he finished it, so there was a long gap between maybe the 12th book and the final book. I thought it was fantastic, kind of epic, like the Lord Of The Rings. When I was in school, I couldn’t keep my nose out of it.
Mags D’Arcy (Former Wexford camogie star)
My favourite book is The Fitness Mindset by Brian Keane , who is a personal trainer. It’s a personal-development book and has evolved my mind with ways to evaluate and progress the whole self rather than just the physique. I read a lot of coaching theory about the All Black culture and Alex Ferguson and all that stuff is very good, but I found Keane’s book great for the overall health and well-being of the body, rather than just the physical conditioning.
Alan Bennett (Cork City captain)
My favourite author is Frank McCourt but my favourite book is definitely Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It was the first book that made me want to travel, when I read it in my early 20s. The furthest I would have been before that was probably Derry! It’s the story of an Australian guy who escapes from prison and goes to India and it’s basically about his time on the run there, the people he meets and what he saw and what he did, including setting up a first-aid camp in a shanty town in Bombay. It’s full of drama and just a great read, really good.
Brian Kerr (former Ireland manager, Virgin Media Sport football analyst)
I always go back to McIlvanney On Boxing by the late Hugh McIlvanney. The piece of writing I love most is the sad story of the Welsh boxer Johnny Owen, who lost his life after fighting Lupe Pintor in Los Angeles in 1980. McIlvanney had actually written in advance about his fears for Owen, who was this shy, scrawny, skinny guy — they called him ‘The Matchstick Man’— and who he felt might be taking on too much. It was as if he almost had a premonition (Owen died after spending seven weeks in a coma). He finishes his piece about the fight itself by describing Owen’s mother back in Merthyr Tydfil getting the first telephone call to say that her son had been seriously hurt. I think it’s a really beautiful and powerful piece of writing.
Valerie Mulcahy (Former Cork ladies footballer)
I was given Andre Agassi’s Open as a present and it is such an insightful read. I was a fan of Agassi when I was younger and was taken aback at the extent to which he opened up on aspects of his life. Particularly striking was his love/hate relationship with tennis and the negative influence his incredibly demanding father had on him, but there’s light-hearted stories too, such as Agassi’s disappointment when the champions’ dance at the Wimbledon Ball in 1992 was cancelled and he didn’t get to dance with Steffi Graf. I couldn’t go without mentioning another favourite read, one much closer to home. Mary White’s Relentless brilliantly captures the journey of the Cork ladies footballers.
Stephen Rochford (former Corofin and Mayo boss and current Donegal selector)
I have two. The first one would be Christy O’Connor’s The Club. I knew one of the people in it, Ger Hoey, a colleague I travelled abroad with on a few trips. A lot of clubs are similar and the relationships and yarns and the people are all very familiar. I also really enjoyed Ronan O’Gara’s autobiography. He is a brutally honest person who doesn’t like being beat. He was very honest about the disappointments with Munster and even the Lions and, as a sportsperson, you are able to relate to those and the highs as well. You understand the need to dust yourself down from disappointments and build resilience to come again. They are characteristics that you would highly respect.