THE Christmas holidays have arrived – so I hope you have more free time.
If so, here are six books from the world of Irish sport over the past year that are well worth reading…
Emerald Exiles: How the Irish left their mark on the world, by Barry Landy
New Island Books. £15.99.
Emerald Exiles presents compelling stories of Irish footballers who have traveled beyond the safety net of the UK and Ireland in search of opportunity and adventure.
The vast majority of elite football players from the island of Ireland end up playing football in the UK – where the Premier League and professional football leagues below offer, as they have for decades, the likeliest route to professional play for Irish players.
Ireland has for years been fertile ground for British clubs to recruit players.
If they don’t make it, the National League of Ireland offers them what’s best: a certain level of professionalism and stardom.
But what about those players who have ventured further?
Emerald Exiles follows the fascinating lives of these players, who broke the mold and ventured to distant shores in search of sporting glory and a new way of life.
Tracing the international exploits and turmoil of players like Liam Brady, Anne O’Brien, Robbie Keane, Stephanie Roche and many more, as well as first-hand interviews with over a dozen key players, Emerald Exiles is the authoritative history. of how Ireland left their mark on world football.
Crossing the Line, by Willie Anderson with Brendan Fanning
To reach. €18.99
Irish rugby has produced many charismatic figures throughout its history. Nothing more than Willie Anderson.
Immortalized for his defiant attitude to the All Blacks’ Haka, the Ulsterman is also known for the time he spent locked up by the military junta in Argentina for a prank gone wrong.
But Willie Anderson is not limited to the headlines of the newspapers.
Crossing The Line is the story of a life challenged by bigotry, alcohol addiction and personal tragedy. This is the story of a triumph over adversity.
Willie collaborated with Brendan Fanning on his autobiography.
Brendan is the author of the critically acclaimed From There to Here, the definitive account of Ireland’s troubled journey from amateur to professional.
He has been involved in rugby all his life as a player, coach and journalist.
He has been the Sunday Independent’s rugby correspondent since 1996.
Unbroken, by Aidan O’Mahony
Hatchet Ireland. £14.99.
Aidan O’Mahony was in peak physical condition and making his mark on the Kerry senior football team when he made the devastating choice to walk away from it all.
Now, in his Powerfully Honest memoir, Aidan reflects on the events leading up to this moment: the extreme pressure he put on himself as he struggled to achieve peak physical strength, grappling with the asthma that had plagued him since childhood; the on-field altercation that damaged his mental health; the controversy over a failed drug test and the media scrutiny he found himself facing.
And he tells how, in the weeks following his departure from the game, he made a decision that would ultimately change everything.
As Aidan began to discover who he was and what was important to him, he returned to football with the same dedication and commitment he always had, but with a new mindset.
He went on to achieve championship and personal heights, including participating in and winning RTÉ’s Dancing with the Stars.
Unbroken is a tale of the discipline it takes to be part of one of the most successful Gaelic football teams in the country.
It’s also a story of managing external and internal expectations and pressures, and the importance of knowing when to ask for help.
The Nation Holds Its Breath, by George Hamilton
Irish University Press. €22.95.
“David O’Leary is given the responsibility of taking the penalty that could send Ireland to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
“That kick can decide everything. The nation holds its breath… Yes, here we are!
Written with its warmth and candor, The Nation Holds Its Breath is George Hamilton’s long-awaited and wonderfully told journey through a rich and varied career in broadcasting.
As the undisputed voice of Irish football, George’s evocative and famous commentary is familiar to millions.
He captured the highs and lows of Irish sport for generations of fans, ever since he first took the mic in the mid-1970s, and he has fascinated his audience ever since.
To read George’s handwriting is to hear George’s voice and this book is captivating from page one as it takes us on a loving journey from Cregagh Road in East Belfast to a farewell salute moving from Big Jack Charlton on the hallowed turf of Anfield to 1995. The destinations – Stuttgart, Genoa, New Jersey – will be familiar, the journeys in between anything but.
An important memoir of one of Ireland’s undeniable national treasures.
Devotion: A Memoir, by Micky Harte with Brendan Coffey
Harper Collins. £10.99
During a frenetic seven-year spell early in his senior management career, Mickey Harte led Tyrone to four Ulster and three All-Irelands championships.
It was a run that altered the balance of power in football, changed the way the game would be played for more than a generation and cemented his reputation as one of the most transformative figures in GAA history.
Then, in January 2011, the visit of a shocking tragedy changed everything: Mickey’s daughter, Michaela, was murdered while on honeymoon in Mauritius, and the Harte family, wracked with grief, woke up to find himself at the center of an international report.
Devotion, the result of a collaboration between Mickey and author Brendan Coffey, is many things.
The story of a family’s decade-long struggle to cope with an almost unimaginable loss. A meditation on how faith, community and sport can support us in our most difficult times. And, finally, a portrait of one of the true icons of Irish sport, as he brings a legendary era to an end and prepares for a final assault.
Dark Blue: The Despair Behind the Glory, My Journey Home from the Edge, by Shane Carthy
O’Brien Press. €14.99.
From an early age, Shane Carthy had an incredible talent for sports.
He quickly rose through the Dublin footballing ranks, playing in a winning All-Ireland team at the age of eighteen.
Amidst this success, he increasingly suffered from severe bouts of depression, hiding it from his family and everyone around him.
For two long years, while triumphing on the football field, he suffered from a constant mental disorder.
In Dark Blue, with searing honesty, he recounts his journey through the deepest depression.
He writes candidly and eloquently about the downward spiral that saw him waking up in St Patrick’s Mental Hospital just days after producing a man of the match display in the U21 Under-21 final victory. Dublin in 2014 against Meath.
An inspiring story of resilience and recovery. About how he learned to overcome his troubles and love life again.