Over Christmas I got to read two great sports books. As it turned out, both were Irish sports books. Both were written by hurlers. Who were both from Clare. Both were nominated for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. Both were about what great things people can do if they put their minds to it. As Adidas say “Impossible is nothing”.
The first book was “Screaming at the Sky” by Tony Griffin. Tony was an inter-county hurler with Clare during the 2000’s and won an All-Star in 2006. But this book isn’t just a tail of his hurling career. He’s done so much more. And he’s only 30 now – so just 2 years older than me. Makes you realise you can do way more than you ever imagined, if you put your mind to it.
Tony was affected by his dad’s passing due to cancer, so went on a personal journey which involved postponing college for a year to become a full time hurler, training 7 days a week. After that he convinced himself he’d cycle across 7,000km in Canada. He ended up meeting Lance Armstrong and completing his massive cycle – solo. What a legend. A very inspirational book for so many reasons. Honesty is one of the things you’ll see clearly throughout this book. After reading it you’ll definitely think big – what big goal do you want to achieve?
The second book was “The Club” by Christy O’Connor. It’s ironic that I waited 28 years to read my first book about a Clare hurler and within a day I’ve already started my second (this was due to Santa delivering this book). I thought this guy was a famous golfer, but no this guy was a top goalkeeper in Clare, overshadowed by Davy Fitzgerald at intercounty level. He’s also Jamesie’s brother and from one of the most successful clubs – St Joseph’s Doora Bearfield.
This is a book anyone involved in any sports club in Ireland could relate to. It charts a year in the life of a small club which is based around a parish in Ennis. The on-field dramas, the various committees, the issues of management, facilities, fundraising, organising training, recruiting players, the loss of players, the threat gaelic football poses for hurling in such a club, etc. It also deals with the characters that make up the club – players and managers who are friends and enemies but all come together in a club environment for the good of the team. This book also deals with tragedy and how that impacts the club. After reading this book you’ll really appreciate the complexity of running a club and the huge impact it makes on any community.
Over the years here are some of my favourite sports reads:
- Tony Cascarino’s autobiography – it’s not just a football book recounting every goal he scored. Tony sounds like he’s lived a little. One of few Irish/British footballers to play abroad in France. Tony’s had a few wives & several children. Tony’s made a career at poker and journalism/punditry. Funniest piece is Tony recounting talking to his kids who only spoke French back at him, while he could only talk to them in English.
- Paul Kimmage’s “Rough Ride” – we’ve all heard about the drugs scandals in cycling, but Kimmage gives an incredible insight from the saddle. He was a pro cyclist in the 1980s, so along with Seán Kelly and Stephen Roche he completed the Tour de France. However he gave up the sport in his 20s in disgust at the drugs culture, which was all consuming. The fact he exposed all this over 20 years ago shows how ahead of the curve he was. When someone like Kimmage is such a strong critic of Lance Armstrong and Michelle Smith, it makes you think – why would he lie about them?
- Two books on Brian Clough: the first was a biography written by Duncan Hamilton called “Provided you don’t kiss me” which makes you laugh and cry at what went on at Derby County and Nottingham Forest over the years. His amazing highs and nasty decline and affliction with alcohol make this a great read on a unique character.
- The second book, “The Damned United“, is part fact/part fictional story about Clough’s failed 33 day tenure in charge of Leeds United in the 1970s. It’s written from Clough’s perspective, as if you’re inside his head. So it’s not a historical recounting of why he failed at Elland Road, but more a biased, twisted account of how his mind perceived the players, fans, directors. Johnny Giles mightn’t have liked this book (he took the author to court), but it’s amazingly well written.
- Eamon Dunphy’s biography on Sir Matt Busby was also a great read on someone who I knew little about, but realised he was an historic figure with a huge club.
What’s on my reading list this year?
- Paul McGrath’s autobiography
- Johnny Giles’ autobiography
- Roy Keane’s autobiography
- Andre Agassi’s autobiography “The Open”
- “Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher McDougall
- “Working on a Dream: A Year on the Road with Waterford Footballers” by Damian Lawlor
- “Days of Heaven” by Declan Lynch
- “Last Man Standing: Hurling Goalkeepers” by Christy O’Connor
Any others you recommend? Anything with adrenaline really will do.