Legends of Irish Rugby: Forty Golden Greats


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He was a leader in Argentina's formidable forward pack and a member of the side which came third in After Polutele retired from playing, he took over as Tonga head coach and led them at the edition, where they beat Italy He was his country's highest points scorer at the edition with 16 and, at 38 years and 98 days old, played his only game of the tournament against Ireland. At 6 ft 8 in, the lock is one of the tallest players to represent England and was a member of the squad which came runners-up to South Africa at the tournament.

He came on as a substitute in the win over Italy at the tournament aged 37 years and days old. Lima, who is the only player to feature in five World Cups, was 36 years and days old when he started against England in Utility back Catt, who played in England's victorious final, was 36 years and 33 days old when he started the final versus South Africa. Bogue follows a player or manager from each Ulster county for the season. A work sui generis: idiosyncratic, personal, occasionally self-indulgent, and all the better for being all of those things.

Years ago when one of us was embarking on another book project, Foley insightfully remarked in conversation that the best American and indeed Irish sports books invariably tell you something about that country. Well, rarely has a sports book told you more about an Ireland at one moment in time than Foley has himself with his just-released account of the years and days leading up to Bloody Sunday.

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The detail here is astonishing on Mick Hogan alone. How he grew up, how he died and how a teammate kept his shoelaces until the day he died himself. Probably the most exhaustively and best researched mainstream Irish sports book ever, yet reads like the best of historical novels. Never has one book better captured the GAA, the championship, the Irish summer and Ireland itself all in one as Sweeney has here. No manager of an Irish sports team had been quite as candid as this before for a book, certainly not a Kerry one anyway.

A book that created quite the fuss when published. As it happened, the Jack Charlton portrayed was the real Charlton: dogmatic, cussed, occasionally small-minded yet rarely less than endearing. Sums it up perfectly.

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We get a full picture of the man and where he comes from: smalltown Ireland, recounted with much humour and love. But it is in the dressing room that Dalo, like Daly, really comes alive. Close to half the book is an account of the season in which his Dublin hurlers struggle and ultimately fail to attain the heights of the previous season. A masterful, insightful book on a career, professional football, and of course Saipan — and oh yeah, the World Cup that followed it.

By the time this came out in , you would have thought there was little more that could be told about or harped from the most celebrated but hackneyed Irish sports rivalry of them all; it took us two years to muster up the energy to give it a try.

Yet Humphries managed to extract further gold from those mines, making something stale into something fresh. A personal favourite is his wonderful account of a middle-aged man walking into Croke Park for a All Ireland quarter-final between Dublin and Tyrone and taking up for the first time a spot on Hill 16, a terrace more accustomed to seeing only his back.

Or at least it feels that way after reading Alan English magnificently convey the lead-up, atmosphere and drama of that game so many wish and claim they were at.


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But as much as that win was something of a once-off, there was nothing overnight about it. English brings us through the genesis of a Munster rivalry and fascination with the All Blacks, how rugby captured the heart and imagination of the city and people of Limerick, and the education of a coach in Tom Kiernan, all which culminate in a day of days.

Thankfully it is now suitably chronicled in the rugby book of rugby books. Liam Griffin and the Riverdance of sport. Ger Loughnane and the way he might look at ya.

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DJ Carey firing bullets with butterfly wings. An ill Brian Whelahan, struggling at wing-back, going up front and merely winning an All- Ireland for Offaly. The summer of , with garrulous priests and sheep in a heap and Munster Council meetings and expiring grannies. Those were the days and Walsh does them full justice.

The s in hurling deserved a very good book. John Feinstein may have often done it a few times over on Stateside: follow a group of sportsmen from a range of teams over the course of a season, all competing for the same prize while sharing in something bigger again. He went for goalkeepers. And not just any goalkeepers, but the greatest and most charismatic generation of custodians the old game has ever known: Cusack, Cummins, Fitzgerald, Fitzhenry, McGarry.

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One of the very few groundbreaking GAA books, with Hayes — All Ireland-winning Meath footballer and professional sportswriter — charting 10 ten years of his life on a team which made repeated attempts on Everest, many of which failed in circumstances that were either heartbreaking or farcical, before eventually scaling the mountain in Just like the magical era and scene it covered, this book may have escaped you; if so, what fun you missed.

As Keith Duggan of The Irish Times observed, there probably has never been such a fantastically fabulous cast of characters in an Irish sports book, the sheer multitude of which his colleague Malachy Clerkin has compared to The Wire.

Lennie McMillian who for some was the first black man they ever saw walk, let alone dunk. Hancock whose last game in college was the NCAA final for Georgetown against Michael Jordan in front of 62, people, and his next then was in a freezing gym in the northside of Cork.

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Jasper, Strickland, Deora, we could go on, and this book does, pushing close to , words. Therein lies part of its appeal. The elephant scene involving the two of them is classic stuff. So is the entire book. Everybody is equal again at the bottom of the ladder. Humphries maps the GAA world, which extends to Ruislip and New York and beyond, and digs down through the strata, encountering all human life as he goes.

There are football-playing travellers, Donegal fishermen, hurley makers, emigrants, townies and country folk. Also included is a gripping chapter on two men who faced one another in the All Ireland U21 football final between Antrim and Roscommon: Dermot Earley went on to become head of the Irish Defence Forces while Michael Colbert from Belfast went on to get 15 years in Long Kesh. A little overly-romantic at times for some, perhaps, but next time you meet someone who wants to know what the GAA is and who peoples it, get them to read Green Fields.

It was an unlikely coup for Ireland without any request or intervention from a dictator or gangster, but rather a daring Kerry-born London-based publican called Butty. Sugrue doing the Don King of bringing Ali back, as it would turn out, to the home of his ancestors. Ali-Lewis in Croke Park may have been a low-scale fight by Ali standards but by any other measure there was nothing small about it because there was nothing small about Ali. Ireland would charm both fighters too.

Thirty years later, Hannigan tracks Al Blue Lewis down. We now know it all worked out. But for a long time no one knew that. For a long time Lance kept winning, fans and media kept cheerleading, while Walsh was slurred, sued, isolated and bullied. Yet he persisted. This is the story of that story.

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The subtitle is My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong but Walsh will admit that at times it was more a crusade. But thank the stars for such a crusading journalist and such an exceptional and exhaustive one too. Such a simple idea, so brilliantly executed.

Legends of Irish Rugby: Forty Golden Greats Legends of Irish Rugby: Forty Golden Greats
Legends of Irish Rugby: Forty Golden Greats Legends of Irish Rugby: Forty Golden Greats
Legends of Irish Rugby: Forty Golden Greats Legends of Irish Rugby: Forty Golden Greats
Legends of Irish Rugby: Forty Golden Greats Legends of Irish Rugby: Forty Golden Greats
Legends of Irish Rugby: Forty Golden Greats Legends of Irish Rugby: Forty Golden Greats

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