Recent G.A.A. Publications - 1997
HOGAN, VINCENT: Beyond the Tunnell: The Nicky English story (MedMedia, £10)
HUMPHRIES, TOM: Green Fields: Gaelic Sport in Ireland (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £15)
KEENAN, DONAL: Babs: The Michael Keating Story (Storm Books, £10)
KING, SEAMUS J.: A History of Hurling (Gill & Macmillan, £18)
MURPHY, SEAN: The Prince of Hurlers: The Life and Times of Jackie Power (The Clare Champion, £10)
O'HEHIR, MICHAEl: My Life and Times (Blackwater Press, £15)
O'KEEFFE, CATHERINE, (ED): Marlfield Hurling Club, 1946 - 1996 (Sureprint, £10)
O'ROURKE, COLM: The Final Whistle (Hero Books, £10)
RACKARD, BILLY: No Hurling at the Dairy Door (Blackwater Press, £10)
NUGENT, SEAN: Slievenamon in Song and Story (Sureprint, N.P.)
As the above list testifies there is an abundance of G.A.A. pubications on the market for this Christmas. And, I heard, it may be added to in the very near future by books from Ger Loughnane and Jimmy Smith of Clare! The significant thing about the list is the overwhelming preponderance of hurling books. The sole exception is the autobiography of Colm O'Rourke, sponsored by Kepak and published last summer. The book brings to life one of the best known and respected footballers of the last twenty years, tracing his life from the earliest interest in football in Skyrne through some of the most memorable games in the colours of Meath. The autobiography discusses the extent of the rivalry between Dublin and Meath among other things and there is a stimulating article on the road ahead for the G.A.A. The book concludes with O'Rourke's scoring record over twenty years of senior football with Meath - his average was 2.47 points per match - together with the scores and lineouts in every championship game he played.
The Marlfield club history presents the story of the club through newspaper accounts of its successes and defeats and this is f1eshed out by personal reminiscences of some of the major figures in the club. In existence since 1946 it made its first major breakthrough in 1954 when it won the south junior title. Senior breakthrough followed in 1960 after the club was strengthened by the addition of five new players, Mick Egan, Mickey Carew, Jerry McCarthy, Paddy Maher and Seamus Power. Of course the most influential figure on the side was Mr. Marlfield himself, Theo English. There is much more and Catherine O'Keeffe and all those involved in its production are to be complimented. If I am critical it's of a few minor things. I should have liked to have read a bit more about the lawn, some history of the Bagwells and, for those confused by many,of the placenames, a map would have been a help.
There is a review of three of the books elsewhere in the Yearbook, the Babs story, Beyond the Tunnel and A History of Hurling. I was interested to read in the Babs' book that he claims responsibility for the high catch in hurling. "In those days not many hurlers tried to catch a high ball. Everything that came in the air was played in the air. I was different. I jumped for it and caught it." When I put it to him that this skill arrived earlier with Wexford he claimed it was in the backs they used it, not the forwards. He is very interested in the changing style of management from the time he played. At that time there was little rapport between players and management. No selector ever discussed your game with you. The first inclination you got of dissatisfaction was when you weren't picked to play. (Interestingly some of the players managed by Babs would claim you got the message when he stopped talking to you!) He reckons there was a failure in the management of the Tipperary team in 1966. Of his own days in management he is eloquent in the defence of his way of doing things. He admits that his five Ss, speed, stamina, style, skill, leading to scores, were not sufficient without a killer instinct. He writes about inviting Kevin Heffernan in 1989 to talk to the Tipperary players in order to try and instill the killer instinct. He would agree that Galway beat Tipperary physically in 1987 and 1988 as did Cork in 1992.
Nicky English claims honesty in his account of his hurling life and' is difficult not to concur. It's a warts and all presentation and he is quite modest about his achievements. The famous kicked goal was pure luck: "As I closed in on Cunningham's goal, the sliothar at my feet, honestly hadn't a clue what I was going to do next. .. To this day, I still can't believe what the ball did." He is equally modest about the tap-over point in Killarney: he thought there was someone behind him andwas afraid of being hooked! He recalls the photograph from the Clare game of 1984 in the Cork Examiner "with shall we say, more than my tongue hanging out as I raced through on goal. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it. There I was, in all my glory, the side of my shorts opening just sufficiently for the family jewels to protrude. Incredibly to my knowledge, it got through every edition." He does not hesitate to write about the terrible decision made by the selectors in picking the 1990 team. And there is much more, all written in a very readable manner.
Tom Humphries' book is not just a book about football and huling but one about Ireland and the Irish. It is the story of people, places and passions, tales about games which run deep in the Irish consciousness. It's about sports which have stirred a country like little else can. Anyone who has read Humphries in the Irish Times will know what an interesting and exciting writer he can be.
A History of Hurling is an attempt to write a one-volume history of one of the oldest field games in the world, a game that stretches into the dim and distant past. The main part of the book concentrates on the history of the game since the foundation of the G.AA a traces this through the senior hurling championship. There are chapters on the other championships and competitions, on the geography of the game, on hurling styles and on the future of hurling.
The Jackie Power book runs to 200 pages and recalls the life of Jackie from his birth in 1916 to his death in Tralee in 1994. His dazzling skills and ferocious courage come to life as his feats and deeds on the hurling fields of Ireland are detailed in the winning of two All Irelands, four National Leagues, seven Railway Cup medals, one Oireachtas, fifteen county hurling finals and five county football finals. The book also records his son, Ger's 8 All Ireland football medals with Kerry and grandson, Stephen McNamara's All Ireland with Clare in 1995.
Michael O'Hehir's, My Life and Times, was launched with impressive pomp and circumstance by President Mary Robinson at a gala occasion in the Burlington Hotel, Dublin a few weeks ago. Over 700 people , chiefly from the G.AA and racing worlds turned up for the occasion. The book reads as interestingly as Michael used to commentate: 'At Cusack Park we climbed into a broadcasting box that had just 1 room for myself and my father. He struck me as being in a more nervous state than I was. Some 30 or 40 yards away in a kind of watchman's hut was Jimmy Mahon, the Radio Eireann technician. Through the headphones I got the word from Jimmy "Two minutes to one minute to go." And then: "You're on the air and off I went. I tried to describe as best I could what was happening on the field." The occasion was the Galway-Monaghan All-Ireland football semi-final, the place was Mullingar and the year was 1938 and with it began a distinguished broadcasting career that was to last until 1985 and include 99 All-Ireland final broadcasts.
Sean Nugent has collected in 300 pages the songs and stories associated with Tipperary's most famous mountain. The legends and tales, associated with the mountain, have endured down the centuries and have created an aura of magic and mystery around the place.
Billy Rackard's book is not only an account of hurling but of a family and a village. When he was born in 1932 the Rathnure G.AA club was founded. He describes how his father, Bob Rackard, set his sights on the beautiful, 5'11" Statia Doran and married her. They had nine children, of whom Billy was the youngest. The book brings us through childhood, an assortment of colourful characters and the exceptional hurling careers of himself, and his brothers, Bobby and Nicky. A great addition to the Wexford hurling story and to our hurling library.
As I complete this review of recent G.A.A. publications Liam Griffin king to Pat Kenny about another book, to appear in the next few weeks on Wexford's success in 1996 and what it did for the county. The book isn't even printed yet but must be looked forward to.
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 1997, pp 124-125