It’s been another vintage year for sports books and there are plenty of titles to satisfy the sports mad enthusiasts in your life this Christmas. Ger McCarthy has put together a list of some the best releases and present ideas from a bulging 2018 catalogue
For the sports-mad person in your life – On the Seventh Day, from the archive of the Sunday Independent, is a collection of the best work some of this country’s finest sportswriters. Any book involving Paul Kimmage, Eamon Dunphy, David Walsh, Eamonn Sweeney, Joe Brolly, Neil Francis, Dion Fanning and Cliona Foley and covering some of Ireland’s greatest historical sporting moments is an essential stocking-filler. This was the number one sports book on my Christmas wishlist and the perfect gift for any sporting enthusiast.
You don’t have to be a fan of boxing to appreciate the brilliance of Andy Lee’s book, Fighter. Author Niall Kelly does a tremendous job detailing one of Irish boxing’s greatest exports and most insightful characters.
Already a best seller, author Paul Gibson’s account of boxer Eamon Magee’s life is the joint-winner of the 2018 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award. A former world champion, Magee squandered almost everything, took a bullet in the leg from the IRA before managing to turn things around and guide his son’s boxing career. Tragedy strikes late in Magee’s life but this is one of the best books, let alone sports books, of 2018.
For the GAA fan in your life – Once again, the bookshops heave with GAA books, including some notable autobiographies.
Love him or loathe him, Davy Fitzgerald is nothing if not honest. Never afraid to shy away from controversial views, At All Costs is a true reflection of its subject. Fitzgerald’s relationships with Brian Lohan, Jamesie O’Connor and Ger Loughnane are detailed with Fitzgerald’s typical fiery honesty.
The Obsession, by former Tyrone star Seán Cavanagh is another eye-opening read. Chronicling his club and intercounty career, Kavanagh’s description of his difficult relationship with manager Mickey Harte along with his, at times, obsessive approach to the game he loves is worth your time.
Other titles worth considering include Mayo stalwart Cora Staunton’s Game Changer, ghost-written by Cork author Mary White, Paul Rouse’s The Hurlers, which details the first All-Ireland hurling championship and the making of modern-day hurling. Sportsfile’s A Season of Sundays is, as always, an excellent Christmas gift idea containing all the best images from 2018 GAA season.
For the rugby fan in your life – Sticking with Sportsfile’s superb outfit, Great Moments in Irish Rugby is a historical look back at some of Irish rugby’s most iconic picttures.
A far more serious title but nonetheless terrific read is Mike Ross’s autobiography Dark Arts about overcoming personal tragedy and the mental demands put on a modern-day player for both club and country.
Another book doing particularly well is The Last Amateurs, the story of Ulster’s 1999 Heineken Cup success. The off-field shenanigans rather than usual on-field play by play makes for an entertaining read.
For the soccer fan in your life – Former England international and Liverpool striker Peter Crouch is forging a career in the media thanks to his popular BBC podcast.
Crouch’s book How To Be a Footballer is amongst the most humorous titles to emerge about being a professional footballer for many years. The Stoke City player’s story about meeting Roy Keane at a set of traffic lights story is just one of many highlights.
Building the Yellow Wall is Uli Hesse’s excellent chronicle of the rise, fall and second rising of Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund. The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor is at the top of his game with Kevin Keegan and My Life in Football. Another off-beat title is Peter Hooton’s The Boot Room Boys, recalling the rise of Liverpool FC under Bill Shankly and subsequent boot room graduates.
Released back in January, Kevin O’Neill’s Where Have All the Irish Gone? on the sad demise of Ireland’s golden generation of footballers is a decent read. World in Motion is Simon Hart’s iconic account of the 1990 World Cup in Italy and how the tournament changed the face of modern football forever. Focusing on England and Gazzamania, there are plenty of terrific behind-the-scenes stories involving Jack Charlton, the Irish team and Toto Schillaci.
Other sporting titles – Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian’s Tiger Woods book is a lengthy but engaging biography of one of the best golfers of all-time. The rise and fall of sport’s first billion-dollar athlete is forensically detailed on the back of 400 interviews with people from every corner of Woods’s life.
Driven is the story of female rally driving pioneer Rosemary Smith. Marriage issues and financial issues form the backbone to a fascinating story about a driver who competed all over the world in what at the time a male-dominated sport.
Sunday Game host and broadcaster Des Cahill’s autobiography Play It Again, Des should appeal to a wide audience outside of GAA circles. There are few Irish sporting highlights that Cahill hasn’t been a part of over the past quarter century but his account of a family tragedy shows another side to one of the most recognisable sports broadcasters in the country.
Eat and Run has been out for some time but Scott Jurek’s account of how his life was turned around following an introduction to ultra-marathons is a cracking read.
And finally, the new book from Michael Moynihan of The Irish Examiner, entitled Crisis and Comeback – Cork in The Eighties, doesn’t deal with sport but is still a superb and worthwhile read.
The recession that hit during the mid-1980’s plunged Cork into chaos before the city and county rebounded and rebuilt itself in typical style.