The wonderful Gerard Siggins tells us about his return to the brilliant and popular Rugby Spirit series with his latest book, Gaelic Spirit.
Eoin Madden had a verrrrrry long rugby season. The previous summer was spent helping Ireland win the mini-World Cup in London, and without much break he had a busy winter solving the mystery of the stolen World Cup and saving Lansdowne Road from disaster. To cap it all, he was flown off to New Zealand to play for the Lion Cubs…
So you might think he would need a rest?
That’s just not Eoin’s way!
No, our hero gets home to his parents in Co Tipperary and throws himself into action with his local GAA club, Ormondstown Gaels.
Gaelic and hurling were Eoin’s original passions but he had to lay them aside when he went to boarding school in Dublin. His rugby successes have been chronicled in the Rugby Spirit series but his return to his first love kicks off a new run of Eoin Madden adventures.
In Gaelic Spirit, Eoin gets up to his usual range of mischief, attracting trouble and solving mysteries. He also has some encounters with ghosts of long-dead sporting heroes and rediscovers his talent as a footballer and hurler. I love the idea of what sports coaches call ‘transferrable skills’ and how Eoin brings things he has learnt in rugby into Gaelic football. His skill as a hurler might make him a decent cricketer some day!
In a heart-stopping climax to Gaelic Spirit he visits Croke Park for the All-Ireland final and is shocked to watch the terrible events that happened there exactly one hundred years ago as if he had been there.
Bloody Sunday, as it is called, was a momentous day in the history of the sport and is still recalled in landmarks such as the Hogan Stand, named after the Tipperary player Michael Hogan. But Eoin also meets three youngsters, ordinary Dublin boys who were watching the game inside Croke Park or from trees hanging over the wall.
Since I first heard about Bloody Sunday I’ve been fascinated by these victims. Perry Robinson (aged 11) was the first to die that day, shot out of a tree by a sniper. Billy Scott (14) and Jerome O’Leary (10) also perished as the Auxiliaries and Black and Tans fired indiscriminately in a reprisal for their comrades who had been killed in their beds earlier that morning.
It is a complicated, tragic story, brilliantly told by Michael Foley in his prize-winning The Bloodied Field (O‘Brien Press, 2014). Michael’s book was always at hand when I was writing Gaelic Spirit and it is a powerful account of that terrible day.
I hope my rugby-loving readers enjoy Gaelic Spirit and maybe understand that sport is a unifying, healing idea. I’m not sure where Eoin goes next… let me know what YOU think!
Gerard Siggins was born in Dublin and has had a lifelong interest in sport. He’s lived almost all his life in the shadow of Lansdowne Road; he’s been attending rugby and soccer matches there since he was small enough for his dad to lift him over the turnstiles. He has been a journalist for more than thirty years, specialising in sport. His other books about Eoin Madden – Rugby Spirit, Rugby Warrior, Rugby Rebel, Rugby Flyer, Rugby Runner and Rugby Heroes – as well as his ‘Sports Academy’ series – Football Fiesta and Rugby Redzone, are also published by The O’Brien Press.
Gerard Siggins, May 2020
Gaelic Spirit, Rugby Spirit series, Sports Academy series and The Bloodied Field are all available to order from your local bookshop (online, over the phone or via email) or on the O’Brien Press website.
If you haven’t read the Rugby Spirit series you can buy all seven books here as one of our lockdown book bundles!