An Amazing New Children’s Sports Series Begins….

 

We at the O’Brien  Press are delighted to be publishing the first two books in the all new Great Irish Sports Stars series: Cora Staunton and Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper. Ivan O’Brien, Eimear Ryan and Donny Mahoney chatted with me about this new series. 

Ivan O’Brien

Sport is becoming an ever-increasing part of the lives of many children, and it really gets them excited. We have published quite a few novels for young readers with sporting themes (you can see them here: http://www.obrien.ie/childrens/sport-childrens) and seen the way young readers devour them! Fiction is great, but it’s not real life, and role models are hugely important, so we had an idea: why not create a series of books about Ireland’s greatest sporting heroes, written for children? Unlike sports biographies for adults they would focus on the hero’s childhood and the key moments in their lives that made them a success. We approached some writers who we knew would do a great job, and Great Irish Sports Stars was born!

Eimear Ryan

As a young GAA-mad girl growing up in Tipperary, most of my idols were men. When I was pucking out the back, I’d pretend to be Nicky English or DJ Carey – or, if I was playing football for a change, Charlie Redmond or Maurice Fitzgerald. I knew of female GAA players, of course – the Downey sisters of Kilkenny, Laois footballer Sue Ramsbottom, and legendary Tipp camogie forward Deirdre Hughes. But you would only really hear about these players in September, when RTE broadcast the women’s All-Ireland finals. Unlike the men, they didn’t often get featured on The Sunday Game or turned into pull-out posters.

Then along came Cora.

Cora Staunton was one of the first crossover stars of women’s GAA. Crucially, Cora’s breakthrough in the early 2000s coincided with TG4’s sponsorship of the ladies football championship, so her career was televised from early on. Her undeniable prowess was there for everyone to see, and soon enough, she started popping up in Lucozade ads and in in-depth interviews in the sports pages. Not only was she a brilliant female player, she was a highly visible one.

In my research for the book, I took great inspiration from Game Changer, Cora’s aptly-named autobiography written with Mary White. It gives very honest insights not just into Cora’s football career, but into the personal tragedies she has lived through, such as losing her mother when she was sixteen. Later, she lost a teammate and friend, Aisling McGing, when Aisling was just eighteen. Time and time again, when faced with personal loss, Cora turned to football for solace. Her story demonstrates the importance of sport not just as a physical outlet, but as a mental and emotional outlet as well.

Cora is inspiring because of her swagger – her total belief in her own ability and the very high standards she set for herself. She is by no means a ‘safe’ player – she takes risks, and is rewarded more often than not. For most players, scoring an outlandish tally of 2-10 would be a career highlight; for Cora, it’s just another day at the office. At the same time, she’s genuine and down-to-earth off the pitch. Her unapologetic ambition, coupled with her down-to-earth attitude, is what makes her such an exciting player to watch.

Donny Mahoney

What makes a genius? Are they born or made?

Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper was a human highlight reel during his Gaelic football career for Kerry, a magician with the ball in his hand. But unlike many contemporary sporting phenoms who seem anointed for greatness from childhood, Cooper’s success was never a sure thing.

This was what drew me to the story of the Gooch for my book in the Great Irish Sport Stars series. I thought young readers would be drawn to the story of how a good footballer became one of the game’s greats.

From a young age, Cooper loved sport and was incredibly driven. He brought a Gaelic football with him everywhere he went. But in his teenage years, he was doubted and overlooked by coaches and selectors because of his size.

The book tells the story of Cooper’s GAA journey from his estate in Killarney to the steps of the Hogan Stand. It also tries to convey the mystique of Kerry football. For as long as I’ve been watching Gaelic football, I’ve been fascinated by Kerry football, and the Gooch has been central to that.

From researching and writing the book, what I found most striking was the enduring power of the club for Cooper. The Gooch experienced more famous days in Croke Park than the vast majority of GAA players, but what truly mattered most to him were the experiences with his club, Dr Crokes.

In a way, Colm Cooper’s GAA story is bookended by two experiences with his club: acting as a mascot when they won the 1992 club All-Ireland and winning the club All-Ireland with Dr Crokes in 2017. The story of the club is the story of so many Irish communities.

It was a privilege to tell Cooper’s GAA journey for young readers. Books about sport were so important to my own youth. They fostered not just a lifelong love of sport, but of storytelling too. All good sports books – no matter what age group they’re aimed at – touch on universal themes: hope, failure and glory.

These themes run across the great career of Colm Cooper, and hopefully young readers who may have never seen the Gooch in full flight will be fascinated by his story.

 

Cora Staunton and Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper will be published 12 August 2019 and will be available in all good bookshops and on www.obrien.ie 

Ivan O’Brien, Eimear Ryan and Donny Mahoney August 2019

Gerard Siggins on Rugby and Writing

Gerard Siggins chats about his love for rugby and his passion for books ahead of the publication of the fifth book in the Rugby Spirit series – Rugby Runner!

I never really intended to write for young readers. I had enough problems making older ones engage with my weekly column on that esoteric (for Ireland) sport of cricket. But a series of coincidences and chance meetings led me to write the Rugby Spirit series, the fifth of which has just been published.

I grew up – and still live – beside Lansdowne Road, a magical site soaked in the sweat of 100,000 sportsmen and women where the dramas and delights of sport have been played out for nearly a century and a half. As boys, we used it as a playground – in those pre-security guard days we had free run of the stadium and even got to kick and run on the holy turf of the main pitch.

I grew up and became a sports journalist, and found myself returning to Lansdowne Road for big games. Every visit was special, and always brought back memories of my own and of the deeds of the past.

When it was decided to level the grand-stands and bring it back as a shiny, kidney-bowl shaped stadium, I resolved to capture those deeds in a book. With colleague Paul Howard, (later replaced by Malachy Clerkin when Paul, by then busy with Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, “couldn’t be orsed”), we put together a series of tales under the title Lansdowne Road, the Stadium, the Matches, the Greatest Days (O’Brien Press 2010). Continue reading “Gerard Siggins on Rugby and Writing”

Nearly 100 Things that Only GAA People Say

This autumn, with the release of Six Nations, Two Stories, The Balls.ie Guide to Life, and Punching Above Their Weight, we’ve a whole host of sports stories to entertain and inspire! To celebrate our athletic turn, this month’s blog post is an extract taken from The Balls.ie Guide to Life. Enjoy the highlights from ‘Nearly 100 Things that Only GAA People Say’:

A select few sayings and phrases have become enshrined in the vernacular of the GAA’s media, players and public. We don’t know how they got there, but we know they’re not going away. Some of them are stock sayings by Cyril Farrell and Ger Canning. Some are things you hear from auld lads in the terrace at a club match. Some you hear from the county manager or captain after a match. Combined, they make up the odd and illuminating vocabulary of the GAA.

Stuff Only GAA Fans Say

‘They’ve another fifteen on the line that are as good’ Regularly said about Kilkenny’s hurlers, and now Dublin’s footballers. Often followed by the words ‘… if not better’.

‘He was a great minor, but then the drink got him’ The most common (and probably correct) explanation for why blazing underage talent burns out before turning twenty-five.

‘Bend your back’ Usually said to a new underage player who has played a lot of soccer but not much GAA and has a tendency to dribble the ball ‘soccer style’.

‘He’s good, but the brother is better’ How often did we hear this about Alan and Bernard Brogan? Or Seamus and Aidan O’Shea?

Stuff Only GAA Players and Managers Say

‘A draw was the right result in the end’ Said after a highly competitive and entertaining game, usually because ‘neither team deserved to lose’.

‘What do you think of that, Joe Brolly?’ Perhaps the most modern GAA cliché.

‘They wrote us off during the week’ A common potshot by triumphant managers at members of the radio and press corps who offered fair-to-middling criticism of their team.

Stuff Only GAA Pundits and Commentators Say

‘Tight Pitch’ According to the rules of the game, all GAA pitches are of a standard size. But GAA fans know that’s not the case. A tight pitch is the toughest place to go: there’s no space to play, and the opposition fans are right on top of you. It’s generally cited as a factor for the underdog having a chance. Two famously tight pitches are St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge and Nowlan Park in Kilkenny.

‘Wide-open spaces’ The opposite of the tight pitch. The underdog fears the wide-open spaces of Croke Park and Semple Stadium that always seem to be opening up.

‘Gone to the well’ When it comes to crunch time in the Championship, you don’t just dig deep, you go to the well. No team has gone to the well more down the years than Brian Cody and Kilkenny, particularly before said All-Ireland final replay.

The GAA Winners Speech

‘A hUachtarán, Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael, taoiseach …’ No great (or even mediocre) speech can begin without dropping a cúpla focal as an act of deference to the assembled dignitaries and GAA bureaucrats.

‘To the sponsors: we couldn’t have done it without you, lads’ There is no greater faux pas than to omit mention of the team sponsor. And while you’re at it, thank the bus company, the restaurant that provides the post-match carvery, the water-bottle supplier, and the lady who makes the tea.

‘Finally, three cheers for the losers. Hip hip!’ The celebrations cannot really begin until the captain has issued some sort of semi-patronising acknowledgement to the losing side.

The Balls.ie Guide to Life will be available from 28 September.