From Dalo to Keano via Claw and Cake - Our favourite sporting reads of 2014
The books that made us laugh, learn, cry and read in 2014
We love a good book here at SportsJOE and the past 12 months have been filled with a plethora of superb titles from sportspeople, ghostwriters and scribes with a passion for all games great and small.
We asked each of our writers to jot some words on their favourite reads of the year. Here are the results...
Patrick McCarry - A Life with Claw: The Peter Clohessy Story
The man pictured below was once one of the most feared rugby players in the country. 'Claw' doesn't look too different now from the man who waved goodbye to the game in 2002. During his 15 years at the top of his sport, Clohessy courted controversy and skittled opponents almost every time he took to the pitch.
Clohessy's wife Anna Gibson-Steele pens the biography and paints a fantastic, if slightly rose-tinted, picture of her husband's career and off-field antics. Highlights include Claw surviving an explosion and fire, stamping on French people, becoming the first Irishman to play Super Rugby, Heineken Cup finals, nights on the razz and failing asleep on toilets.
Sean Nolan - A Season of Sundays: Sportsfile
Now a Christmas classic on a par with It's A Wonderful Life, once again Sportsfile's collection of the best GAA images of the year is simply superb. If it were only a collection of their great photographs it would be a very good book indeed but the format, which takes you from the dark, cold days of the O'Byrne Cup in Jaunary, to the Club Finals in March to the glorious sun dappled days of the Championship that really makes it.
An entire year's worth of great memories come flooding back and the sense of anticipation for the coming year is almost as enjoyable. Non-GAA fans will love the pictures, and Gaelic Games nuts will adore it.
Kevin Mc Gillicuddy - Dalo: Anthony Daly
You've made it in the GAA world when everyone knows you by a nickname: Páidí, Brolly, and now Dalo. The always engaging ex-Dublin manager has provided us with one of the best GAA books of the last five years. It's hugely entertaining,funny and also charged with a massive emotion as the All Ireland winner details his experiences on the pitch, and his difficulties in both his sporting and personal life off it.
The unusual time-shifting format of the book is unique and that's what lends it the freshness and vitality that enriches every single page.
Dalo is a massively entertaining figure in GAA and this book is a brilliant portrayal of the Clarecastle legend.
Neil Treacy - The Bloodied Field: Michael Foley
I knew I was onto a winner when the first four bookshops I went into were sold out of this one.
Michael Foley's incredibly history of the background and fallout of Bloody Sunday 1920 is a must-read for anybody with an inkling of interest in Irish sport, Irish history, or Irish culture.
The research gone into this book is just staggering, and the extensive bibliography provided shows just how much meticulous planning and effort went into creating a book that could do a decent job on any Leaving Cert history curriculum.
Darragh Murphy - The Second Half: Roy Keane
The mere release of Roy Keane's much anticipated second book was one of the more memorable events of the Irish sporting calendar this past year and, when we finally got to take a peek inside the cover, the content didn't disappoint.
The process of reading the compelling sequel was, I imagine, not too dissimilar from going for a pint with Keano - entertaining and gripping with the irrepressible feeling that it could all kick off at any moment.
The Second Half contains a glimmer of almost every element of the former Ireland and United captain's personality. We get the hilarious with tales of a deal for Robbie Savage falling through thanks to the Welsh midfielder's "Whazzup!" voicemail message. There's also a place for the poignant as Keane reveals the dejection and anger felt during his feud with Fergie. And a Keane book wouldn't be a Keane book without an element of the overly aggressive which came during a recollection of a well-meaning text from Dwight Yorke to which the Corkman replied "Go fuck yourself!"
Roddy Doyle provided the assist in the writing department and the author of The Barrytown Trilogy injected his own brand of parochial Irish humour into the dozens of captivating footballing tales of one of the sport's most divisive figures.
Conán Doherty - Cake: Shane Curran
The autobiography of a passionate, outspoken sportsman and entrepreneur. Is Shane Curran outspoken? Or, in an era of 'careful now' and 'down with this sort of thing', is he actually just an oasis of necessary normality?
What's most striking about the Roscommon legend's book isn't even his wit or his hilarious recounts of some notorious antics, it's actually how he sees the game, how he sees the politics, how he sees life. Curran's depth is perhaps the most surprising element of this read as he breaks down the walls of the lazy reputation that had pigeonholed him for a ridiculously long career.
He's honest and frank, he calls out anything that half needs calling out and his recount of a big-game dressing room is completely and absolutely, on-the-nose bloody brilliant. Curran is a man who deserves an audience. And he is a man who will please his audience.
Robert Redmond - Stillness and Speed, My Story: Dennis Bergkamp
Dennis Bergkamp's autobiography is about as far removed as possible from the standard footballer's book. This isn't a former player attempting to cash-in on his glory days or an exercise in score settling and there's nothing overtly controversial that can be cherry-picked for tabloid serialisation. Instead Bergkamp's is purely about football and the player's unique insight. The Dutchman thinks about the game on a higher level than most, but David Winner's writing makes the book accessible to even the most casual of fans
Stillness and Speed further breaks the mould of the traditional football biography by structuring the book in interview form. Winner speaks to Bergkamp's former teammates and coaches, from those who were indifferent to the Dutch genius at Inter Milan, to the gushing praise and admiration of Arsene Wenger and Thierry Henry. Stillness and Speed also provides a fascinating insight into the footballing cultures in the Netherlands, Italy and England and is worth reading alone for Bergkamp's incredible step-by-step breakdown of his best goals. Although released in December 2013, football fans will be hard pressed to read a better football book released this year.
Gareth Makim - The Sure Thing: The Greatest Coup In Horse Racing History by Nick Townsend
Barney Curley is a name that has struck fear into the hearts of bookmakers since an ingenious betting coup in 1975 saw him sting layers the equivalent of more than €2million in today's money.
A trainer of only minor repute, it is Curley's reputation as a gambler that has made him a legend in racing circles, and he resurfaced in stunning fashion in 2010 with an even bigger victory over the bookies, taking them for £3.9million in a four-horse gamble that would have yielded closer to £15million had the final horse, ironically Curley's banker of the four, not failed to meet expectations.
Battling the techological advances in bookmaking and with an army of helpers sworn to secrecy assisting in a military-style operation across the city of London, including one chap acting the part of a well-heeled gambler in a luxury hotel, the story of the coup is remarkable, not only for its audacity but its scale, a tale with all the hallmarks of a fine caper movie.
Evan Fanning – The Special One: The Secret World of Jose Mourinho by Diego Torres
Diego Torres’s profile of Jose Mourinho’s time at Real Madrid is far from perfect. In fact, at times it is downright exhausting trying to navigate your way through the clandestine plotting and manoeuvring that takes place at every level of that club.
From directors to players via agents and training ground chefs it seems everyone has their own agenda and is intent on pursuing it at the expense of all else.
At the centre of it all is Mourinho, who is painted as a manipulative, paranoid figure who falls out with the key figures in the Madrid dressing room (it’s not hard to figure out who they are).
At times there is so much plotting and backstabbing that it’s more like an episode of Game of Thrones than a book detailing a tactical dispute in the run up to a fixture. Will the players follow Mourinho’s plan or will they decide to go it alone? Who cares because they’re only playing Getafe? Steve Staunton could be in charge and they’d still win 5-1.
But in an age when so many sporting biographies are filled with meaningless drivel and placid anecdotes we can’t complain about a book that has drama dripping from every page.
They say there are three sides to every story: your side, my side and the truth. This book is heavily skewed in one direction – it’s safe to assume it won' be read in the Mourinho household this Christmas - but it’s all the more enjoyable for it.