The Southern Star's guide to the best sports books to buy this Christmas

December 7th, 2019 10:00 AM

By Ger McCarthy


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It has been another bumper year for sports books with plenty of quality publications available to buy in time for Christmas. Book nut GER McCARTHY runs the rule over ten titles covering a wide spectrum of sports


1. Something in the Water – How Skibbereen Rowing Club conquered the world

Author: Kieran McCarthy.  Publisher: Mercier Press.

The Southern Star’s Sports Editor Kieran McCarthy tops the Christmas booklist and rightly so. The story of Skibbereen Rowing club’s humble beginnings to nurturing the talents of multiple World champions and Olympic silver medallists is skilfully handled from first chapter to last.

The O’Donovan brothers voyage to Olympic success is detailed in the opening chapters but the real heart and soul of this book centres on the people behind the scenes that helped put Skibbereen RC the world map. None more so than the unassuming Dominic Casey but many others including founding members Richard Hosford, Danny Murphy and Donie Fitzgerald. You don’t have to be a rowing fan to read ‘Something in the Water’ but you will be once you have finished a brilliant book. The perfect Christmas gift for any sports fan.


2. The Double

Author: Adrian Russell. Publisher: Mercier Press.

A plethora of GAA books are available to buy once again this Christmas but Adrian Russell’s ‘The Double’ should be top of your list. Chronicling Cork’s All-Ireland football and hurling double of 1990, Russell gets the inside story from both camps as well as the opinions and stories of those they faced.

Extensive interviews with Billy Morgan, Tomás Mulcahy, Niall Cahalane, John Cleary, Mark Foley and Gerald McCarthy are expertly interwoven into the remarkable story of how Cork’s footballers retained the Sam Maguire and the county’s hurlers came from nowhere to lift the Liam McCarthy. The Double is a terrific Christmas present for the GAA supporter in your life.


3. Recovering

Author: Richie Sadlier and Dion Fanning. Publisher: Gill Books.

RTÉ football pundit and former Republic of Ireland international Richie Sadlier could have gone the conventional route and written an autobiography centred on his playing career. Instead, the most honest sports book of the year details Sadlier turning away from drink and drugs as well as struggling to come to terms with being sexually abused as a child.

Written in conjunction with Dion Fanning, Sadlier’s emergence from the depths of despair to becoming a qualified psychotherapist and facing his demon’s marks ‘Recovering’ as one of the best Irish books, let alone Irish sports books, of the decade. A triumph.


4. The Club – How the Premier League became the richest, most disruptive business in sport

Authors: Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg. Publisher: John Murray Publishers.

One of the best soccer books of the year tells the story of how the English Premier League was born and became the biggest money-spinning monolith in sports history. Robinson and Clegg gained unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to the power brokers that turned a decaying and hooligan-ridden English football league into the worlds most watched sporting organisation.

From the early days of David Dein, Martin Edwards and Ken Bates’s wheeling and dealing to the arrival of Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour’s billions, ‘The Club’ is a fascinating read. One of the book’s many remarkable stories includes Vietnam veteran General Charles Chandler ‘Chuck’ Kurlak’s speech that inspired Chelsea to pip Liverpool for a Champions League place.


5. Chaos is a friend of mine – The life and crimes of Conor McGregor

Author: Ewan McKenna. Publisher: De Coubertin Books.

Love him or loathe him, it is hard to ignore the UFC’s most prized asset, Conor McGregor. Ewan McKenna’s revealing account of the fortnight leading up to McGregor’s 2018 Las Vegas bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov represents a welcome change from previous books about Ireland’s most (in) famous MMA fighter.
McGregor’s life outside the Octagon has become as newsworthy as anything the Dubliner achieved inside. Ewan McKenna doesn’t hold back in a terrific read.


6. She Can! The Colouring Book for Tomorrow’s Irish Sports Stars

Author: The

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. The came up with a winning idea when one of Ireland’s premier sports websites decided to publish a colouring book depicting 21 of the country’s most famous female athletes. Teaming up with illustrator Chris Judge, youngsters can learn all about Ireland’s female sports stars, including undisputed boxing champion Katie Taylor, and colour in action images as well as reading short Q and A’s. A novel and terrific idea for your Christmas stocking.


7. Tony 10

Author: Declan Lynch. Publisher: De Coubertin Books.

The astonishing but true story of how an An Post branch manager from Gorey, Co Wexford became a gambling addict, won over €10 million and then lost it all and much, much more. A startling, harrowing read expertly paced and handled by one of Ireland’s finest sports writers Declan Lynch, Tony 10 is not necessarily a sports book but a warning to any reader on the dangers of online gambling.


8. Ból Chumann Na hÉireann – Celebrating 50 years of the International Bowl playing Association

West Cork’s Gretta Cormican set a high standard with the release of her acclaimed book entitled ‘Glory Days’ on 50 years of road bowling. Now, Bol Chumann Na hÉireann has penned their own celebration of 50 years of the International Bowl playing Association. This is a book certain to interest not just fans of Irish bowling but further afield as well. Beautiful images and stories depicting the exploits of some of Ireland’s most famous bowlers makes for an entertaining read.


9. My Life and Rugby: The Eddie Jones Autobiography

Author: Donald McCrae. Publisher: Macmillan.

Eddie Jones divides opinion everywhere he goes but there can be little doubting the tough Australian’s ability to win rugby matches. With the brilliant Donald McCrae at the helm, My Life in Rugby is by far the best written and most interesting rugby title available to purchase this Christmas. Jones’ honesty in explaining how he learned from past mistakes and his thoughts on leadership are as intriguing as his tales of managing Australia, Japan and England.


10. The Cross Roads: Rise of Cork City and Crisis at the FAI

Author: Neal Horgan. Publisher: Sportsproview.

Former Cork City star Neal Horgan’s third book on the trials and tribulations of the League of Ireland club is his best offering thus far. Things looked bleak for Cork City back in 2009 until FORAS helped the club rise like a Phoenix from the ashes. Horgan was part of the on and off-field dramas during that turbulent era but recounts in great detail, numerous interviews, the background to Cork City’s ascension back of the League of Ireland ranks.

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