We’ve missed the boat on the end of year reviews, but there’s never a bad time to pick up a book and dig in and with the winter cold showing no signs of lifting, we’ve compiled a list of great GAA books from the past twelve months.
2017 was a particularly great year for Irish sports books. Beyond the microscope of GAA, there’s been exceptional writing on cycling, horse racing and football, with the likes of The Ascent, by Barry Ryan, and Centaur, the autobiography of Declan Murphy standing out in particular. Angling back to GAA, it was a critical year for books and delivered two of the very best autobiographies the sport has seen, along with a few other splendid reads.
1. The Choice – Philly McMahon (with Niall Kelly)
A brutally honest, heart-wrenching take on his life – growing up in Ballymun and the negative connotations associated with it, living and dealing with his brother who was absorbed by drugs and addiction.
The Choice is a wonderful autobiography that has earned multiple awards, deservedly so as one of the hardest hitting GAA books ever in terms of tackling topics such as addiction, mental health and the life-altering choices the youth of today must make.
2. The Warrior’s Code – Jackie Tyrrell (with Christy O’Connor)
The Warrior’s Code by the fine pairing of Jackie Tyrrell and Christy O’ Connor did what many books have failed before them – lift the lid on some of the internal workings on the undoubted greatest generation of hurling of all time – the Brian Cody era.
Buoyed by one of this generation’s best talents, The Warrior’s Code takes a unique look inside the head of a supreme talent, still faced with the worries and insecurities of most men.
3. The Pursuit of Perfection: The Life, Death and Legacy of Cormac McAnallen – Dónal McAnallen
A beautiful memoir of his brother, Cormac, Dónal McAnallen strays from his usual genre of GAA history to look back fondly at the life and time of his brother – a former Tyrone Senior football captain, who died suddenly in 2004, aged only 24, due to a heart condition.
Harrowing, funny and insightful all in one, this books looks deep into the culture of GAA in society, examining life in rural Ireland, the trials of youth and brothers driven for success against all adversities.
4. Jayo – Jason Sherlock (with Damian Lawlor)
If you’re expecting some insight into the goings on of Jim Gavin’s Dublin juggernaut, you’ll be left disappointed. A Warrior’s Code to the strength of Dublin football this is not, but nonetheless it is a gripping read into the mind of one of the GAA’s first household names, as Sherlock broke beyond the realm of purely GAA star into modern Irish pop culture.
In Jayo, he examines struggling with his Chinese heritage, his issues with self-worth and finally overcoming everything to become one of football’s most popular figures.
5. The Art of Hurling: Insights Into Success from the Managers – Daire Whelan
Exactly what it says on the tin, Daire tries to do what many managers past and present avoid at all costs – provide insight and enlightenment into one of the most difficult jobs in the GAA.
Tracing the evolution of hurling managers from the 1970s up to the present day, he has spoken to some of the game’s most enlightened thinkers from that period, including Eamon O’Shea, Anthony Daly, Justin McCarthy, Eamonn Cregan, Babs Keating, John Allen, Cyril Farrell, Liam Griffin and Ger Loughnane. An enjoyable read for anyone on the coaching and management side of the ball, and a must for the bookcase of all true GAA fans.
6. Gooch – Colm Cooper (with Vincent Hogan)
Having retired from inter-county football in 2017, Colm Cooper goes down instantly as one of the greatest ever. His book may not immediately hit the panes of enlightenment and openness that the previous autobiographies on this list delivered, but it’s an enjoyable read nonetheless and a fair insight into the mind of one of the greatest talents we’ve ever had, even if the door in was only left slightly ajar.
7. The GAA Immortals: 100 Gaelic Games Legends – John Scally
Based around exclusive interviews with a who’s who of Gaelic Games, The GAA Immortals covers all the codes, giving a unique insight into icons of the games, including Dick Fitzgerald, Mick Mackey, Christy Ring, Jack Lynch, Nicky Rackard, Mick O Connell, Seán O Neill, Eddie Keher, Jimmy Barry-Murphy, Angela Downey, Lulu Carroll, Nicky English, DJ Carey, Peter Canavan and dozens more. It’s a fascinating, nostalgic account at some of the faces and names that have shaped the GAA into what it is today.
8. Great Moments in Hurling – Sportsfile
Taking some of the fantastic photography that Sportsfile has taken over the decades, Great Moments in Hurling takes a look at the legendary players, matches and moments that have contributed to the narrative of one of the world’s most exciting sports.