Now That’s What I Call a Sports Book

Image Credit: Abhi Sharma

Ahead of the holidays, Christine Coffey offers some stocking filler ideas to cover bookish sport fanatics. Autobiographies from former UCDRFC players Rob Kearney and Sean O’Brien, Jacqui Hurley’s children’s book and Champagne Football co-written by Mark Tighe and Paul Rowan all make the list.

Girls Play Too, Jacqui Hurley 

Brilliant Christmas gift for a younger audience

‘Girls Play Too - Inspiring Stories of Irish Sportswomen’ is a short biographic style book targeted at a younger audience chronicling the All-Ireland glories, Olympic medals, and successes on national and international fronts of some of Ireland’s most prominent sportspeople. Author Hurley played both basketball and camogie to a very high level and is one of the foremost broadcasters involved in RTÉ’s sports coverage. This compendium is jointly (and excellently) illustrated by Sinead Colleran, Rachel Corcoran, Jennifer Farley, Jennifer Murphy and Lauren O’Neill. 

The book contains page long synopses of the sporting careers of 25 of Ireland’s most popular athletes, combining household names such as Katie Taylor, Ellen Keane and Katie Mullan with prominent international figures in sports with a smaller athlete pool, such as golfer Leona Maguire and sailor Annalise Murphy. Cross-coders Sarah Rowe and Cora Staunton feature alongside other multi-sport athletes and dual-stars such as Lindsay Peat and Rena Buckley. Among some of the stand-out pieces are those on former UCD athletes Ciara Mageean and Derval O’Rourke.

The stories of some of the biggest current names on the Irish sporting scene are preceded by a nod to some of the trailblazing Irish sportswomen that have paved the way for this current generation, such as the much-revered Sonia O’Sullivan, and finishes with a glimpse at some of the rising stars, such as Gina Akpe-Moses and Lara Gillespie.

Perhaps the section which captures the central theme of the book comes in the final pages, where young readers are given the same space as any of these sporting heroes to ‘Write your story’ and ‘Draw your story’- the opportunity to reflect on their sporting journey thus far or perhaps the freedom to ponder what their sporting story could be. Young reader stories sit side-by-side with the achievements of some of the countries very best athletes, consolidating Hurley’s message that ‘Girls Play Too’

Champagne Football, Mark Tighe and Paul Rowan

A must-read for any sports enthusiast

Following a series of seismic articles in The Sunday Times, Tighe and Rowan released this detailed account of the mismanagement of the FAI and the depth of the canker it imbued within this organisation, all stemming from the central pantomimic villain, former CEO John Delaney. 

This book constitutes a damning appraisal of years of deception that culminated in a taxpayer-funded bail-out and pulled back the curtain on the gamut of systemic fraudulence which chiselled away at public confidence in the body charged with regulating the ‘people’s game’. Tighe and Rowan combine here to summarise what might come to be one of the most important Irish sports stories of our time, and the changes brought about by their tremendous feat of investigative journalism will surely resonate throughout sports governorship in Ireland for years to come. 

Fuel, Sean O’Brien

Former UCDRFC player O’Brien pens a distinctive autobiography

The highly anticipated autobiography of Sean O’Brien, ghostwritten by rugby correspondent and author Gerry Thornley, hit shelves just in time for the Christmas shop and is a great gift to leave under the tree for any rugby fan. The ‘Tullow Tank’ accounts for some of the struggles faced by those who take the road less travelled to the Irish First XV and emerge from outside the well-established private school system. He regales his career in the characteristically blunt fashion he has employed in many post-match interviews since bursting onto the scene in Leinster. His abrasive performances garnered respect among some of the toughest opposition and he has firmly established his reputation as a players’ player through a combination of his big-game mentality and jovial storytelling throughout a career plagued with a remarkable number of injuries, even for someone in his position.

No Hiding, Rob Kearney 

Another for the ruggers from Ireland’s most decorated rugby player 

With four Six Nations titles, two grand slams, two British and Irish Lions tours, six Pro14 winners medals, four European Champions Cups and the European Player of the Year in 2012, there is little doubt that Rob Kearney is one of Ireland’s most successful rugby players of the professional era. The Louth man has been a constant feature of Irish teams for the most part of a decade and he is regularly lauded for his dependency and consistency, having rubbed shoulders and shared the pitch with some of the game’s greatest of all time. Kearney was joined in writing this autobiography with the British Sunday Times’ Chief Sports Writer David Walsh, a journalist well known for his unflinching pursuit of Lance Armstrong and investigations into the doping scandal surrounding the US Postal Service cycling team. Kearney offers insight into some of Irish rugby’s most fruitful years from the unique position of player, and a candid account of personal struggles and triumphs along the way. Surprisingly insightful.