If you’re looking for a stocking filler, sports fanatic GER McCARTHY is here to help as he outlines his top ten sports books from the past 12 months – and they’re all cracking reads
Champagne Football by Mark Tighe and Paul Rowan
Tighe and Rowan have written the best book, let alone sports book, of 2020. Their forensic account of John Delaney’s rise to power, dictatorship of the FAI, downfall and eventual removal is at times, more a political biopic than sporting disaster. Yet, this is how Irish football was allowed to function over the past 25 years. It is all here, lavish spending on birthday parties, shopping sprees and subsequent bail-outs. The amount of money that flowed out of the FAI’s accounts during Delaney’s tenure will make Irish football fans’ blood boil. An essential read and a triumph of investigative journalism.
Believe: Larry Tompkins, The Autobiography by Denis Hurley
Southern Star columnist Denis Hurley has delivered one of the best GAA books of the year. From early beginnings in Kildare to his arrival in West Cork, via New York, Larry Tompkins’ account of a playing career and overcoming serious injuries – including some cracking stories from his rehabilitation at Old Trafford – will rekindle memories of Cork's past football glories. Yet, the heart and soul of this book is Tompkins’ passion, drive and sheer will to win as both a Cork inter-county footballer and manager. Hurley’s collaboration with the Cork and Castlehaven legend should be on every GAA supporter’s wish-list this Christmas.
1982 Brazil – The Glorious Failure by Stuart Horsfield
A nostalgic look back at one of the greatest Brazilian international football teams of all time but one that failed to deliver World Cup glory. The 1982 World Cup will be remembered for many iconic moments, including surprise winners Italy, but perhaps that tournament’s greatest legacy was football produced by the Brazilian team that travelled to Spain. Thirty-eight years on and the South American team’s names still roll off the tongue: Zico, Falcao, Eder, Socrates, Cerezo and Junior. A generation of young football fans should know the story of one of Brazil’s most entertaining teams, the goals, skills, samba drums and that heart-breaking 3-2 loss to the Italians.
True Colours – Barry Geraghty by Niall Kelly
In True Colours, author Niall Kelly surpasses his two previous releases, ‘The Choice’ and ‘Fighter’. That’s saying something considering the quality of the42.ie writer’s first two books. Barry Geraghty’s open and honest account brings you inside the mind of a jump jockey and describes in detail, the emotional highs of what it’s like to ride a champion horse to the devastation of suffering serious injury after being thrown from the saddle. I know little about horse racing but, as a sports fan, that didn’t stop me from enjoying Niall Kelly’s latest offering. It is a brilliant read about one of horseracing’s greatest jockeys.
The Second Life of Tiger Woods by Michael Bamberger
Having enjoyed Jeff Benedict’s book on the origins of the world’s most famous golfer, Michael Bamberger’s account of Tiger Woods' return to the summit of his sport is an equally entertaining effort. Woods winning the 2019 Masters was one of golf’s most iconic comebacks but raised as many questions as it did plaudits. Thankfully, the author doesn’t shy away from some of the more difficult moments in Woods’ life and his struggles both on and off the course. Benedict has delivered a book that any Tiger Woods or golf fan will enjoy.
Basta – Marco Van Basten, My Life, My Truth
There are plenty of sports autobiographies on sale this Christmas but Dutch international Marco Van Basten’s is the most interesting and honest. Republic of Ireland fans will remember Van Basten from the 1990 World Cup and especially Euro 1988. Van Basten netted a hat-trick against England, played against the boys in green and scored one of the best goals of all time in the Netherlands’ 2-0 victory over the USSR in the Euro ’88 final. Yet, it is what you don’t know about this single-minded striker’s life that makes this book worthwhile. Van Basten’s three-year struggle with a chronic ankle injury, crawling from his bed to the bathroom because it was too painful to walk, and emerging from his hero Johan Cruyff’s shadow makes this one of my favourite books of 2020.
The Toughest Season by Sportsfile
It wouldn’t be Christmas without Sportsfile’s annual publication of the best GAA photographs of the past 12 months. The 24th edition of ‘A Season of Sunday’s’ will come out in January and is set to be one the most unusual releases yet. In the meantime, in association with AIB, SportsFile’s Christmas offering, The Toughest Season, chronicling how the football, hurling, camogie and GAA communities coped with the Covid-19 pandemic is a worthy edition. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to AIB’s partner charities.
The Dynasty by Jeff Benedict
Hailed as the definitive inside story of the New England Patriots, American sportswriter Jeff Benedict’s chronicle of American Football franchise the New England Patriots does not disappoint. As a New York Jets fan, my loathing of Boston’s favourite sporting franchise is hardly surprising but Jeff Benedict’s account of the Patriots’ rise to fame and subsequent NFL dominance is a masterful read. What makes this book different from previous NFL titles surrounding Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft is Benedict’s inside knowledge. You don’t have to be a fan of American Football to appreciate this superb title.
When the World Stops Watching: Is There Life After Sport? by Damien Lawlor
Any book that involves 16 Irish sporting stars including Sonia O’Sullivan, Kevin Doyle, Tommy Bowe, Garry Murphy, Paul Carberry and Grainne Murphy talking openly about their struggles to move on from their sporting careers is worth a read. Lawlor’s book deals with the extremes professional sports people battle with when coming to terms with readjusting to a normal life after their professional careers end. From Tommy Bowes’ mental drain of returning from another injury to former Premier League footballer Paul McGee’s battle with depression, Damien Lawlor’s book delivers 16 searingly honest stories.
Girls Play Too: Inspiring Stories of Irish Sportswomen by Jacqui Hurley
This is one of the real success stories of the year as Jacqui Hurley, a Ballinhassig native, puts 25 of Ireland’s best-known sportswomen front and centre, and tells their stories. This is the first-ever collection of stories about Ireland’s most accomplished sportswomen, showing how they turned their dreams into reality. And there’s no shortage of Cork content either as Rena Buckley, Briege Corkery, Derval O’Rourke, Sanita Puspure, Olive Loughnane and Denise O’Sullivan are all featured. I’d recommend this for the young – and old! – sports fan in your life.