A few books reviewed

Three books

This time of year brings with it not just the collective training ban but also the arrival of several GAA-related books and that’s the case again this year. Experience has taught me that ghostwritten players’ autobiographies are generally not worth bothering with but that still leaves a fair few other titles that are or at least should be. I’m covering three such books here.

The first is GAAconomics by Michael Moynihan (published by Gill & MacMillan), which, as its sub-title states, sets out to discover the secret life of money in the GAA. This is a wide-ranging book, covering such topical finance-related issues such as match day revenues, ticket prices, stadium naming rights, player endorsements, media rights, paid managers and a whole host of others. All of this is interesting stuff, well worthy of examination, and anyone interested in understanding a bit more about these topics will definitely get something from the book.

For me, though, it didn’t really work. Perhaps because its canvas is so broad, the issues covered only get touched upon in the form of interviews with various GAA heads – boiled down to its essence, the book is no more than a long series of such finance-related interviews and there’s little or no analysis undertaken on any of the information the author has obtained from all this talking heads stuff.

Another bugbear for me is the amount of cross-referencing that keeps popping up right throughout the book to issues covered in other parts of it (he’s still ‘as we shall see’-ing as it’s coming to a conclusion) which suggests strongly that the structure of the thing is all over the place. Topics also seem to have been placed randomly in different sections: Part Two, for example, covers “Premises” but the purchase of Croke Park – Chapter 30 (‘The Most Significant Purchase in GAA History) – is dealt with in Part Six (“External Audit”). It all appears to be a bit thrown together.

My biggest problem with the book, though, is what it fails to cover properly. You’d think that a book written in 2013 about GAA finances would have plenty to say about the perilous financial position that many County Boards (notably our own but we’re far from being alone in this respect) and clubs currently find themselves in. To be fair, this issue is touched upon in Part Seven but it’s not examined in anything like the detail it could and should have been dissected.

In summary, then, while GAAconomics is an interesting primer on finance issues related to the GAA, it’s little more than a skin-deep discussion of topics that merit far more analysis than that provided.

Heffo: A Brilliant Mind  by Liam Hayes (Transworld Ireland) is even more of a letdown. The first and most obvious problem with this one is that it’s written by an ex-Meath player about an ex-Dublin manager. No-one could reasonably expect such a combination to turn out well and it doesn’t.  Hayes can’t resist interjecting his own county into the story more often than is necessary – which culminates in the utterly irrelevant pointing to Mick Lyons in the caption accompanying the photo of the 1986 International Rules squad – and it’s never fully possible to get the thought out of your head that this story of a Dublin great is being told by someone who emanates from such a rival camp. That’s to say nothing about what the Dubs might think of this but that’s one for themselves, I guess.

All this would be okay, though, if the book was, as the cliché goes, a rattling good read but sadly it’s not. Like so many GAA books, this one is written in that ultra-annoying “look at me, I’m a sportswriter” style, all replete with one-sentence (sometimes even one-word) paragraphs. This style of writing may have been considered avante garde twenty years ago but it’s now tiresome in the extreme as well as a monumental pain in the hole to have to trawl through.

The story of Heffo’s time in charge of the Dubs, as well as his own playing career before this, is coherently told but anyone who lived through much of this period (in particular from when the Heffo’s Army era began) won’t find a whole amount new to chew on. The behind-the-scenes stories never – despite the author’s best efforts at coming across all over-familiar with the personalities involved – come close to compelling and there’s little or no attempt made to colour in the subject’s significant life outside the GAA. The whole thing amounts to little more than a big, fat turkey, I’m afraid.

Although it doesn’t have the glitzy production values of the other two, Victory Loves Preparation by Emmet Ryan (Original Writing) is a far better book than either of them. Best viewed as a sequel to his opening book Tactics Not Passion, this one ploughs the same ground in that it focuses in detail on the tactics that decided all of the main Gaelic football contests played this year. Emmet fairly got around too, what with league, club championship, colleges and even an U15 match covered before he even begins to turn his forensic gaze to the 2013 championship and how it was won and lost.

Purely from a Mayo perspective, there’s loads of matches covered, all the way from last year’s county club final to this September’s All-Ireland senior final and it’s interesting, if ultimately more than a little painful, to chart our tactical progression from spring through to September. Emmet credits Jim Gavin with making the crucial strategic switches that ultimately got Dublin over the line but notes the following in relation to how the All-Ireland played out at the conclusion of the book:

The two most attack minded sides in the game delivered a defensive struggle. In the end it came down to the narrowest of margins. Whoever lost was certain to regret their strategy, the winner would be grateful it didn’t backfire. Gavin was the latter, Horan the former. Mayo’s heartbreak continues.

As, sadly, it does but at least if you spend some time with this book it might help to enlighten you a bit further as to why that’s the case. The book is undoubtedly one for tactics nerds but as someone who sits squarely at the passion end of the spectrum I found plenty to enjoy in it too.

8 thoughts on “A few books reviewed

  1. Let there no doubt, Gaa books, no matter how good or how well there written, will figure to prominently in Mayo peoples Christmas stockings this year. You see Willie Joe, we’re still hurting big time after loosing another final and the last thing we want is to be regurgitating all that painful stuff again. That of course would all change, were we to win the thing in 2014…….

  2. Great stuff WJ, thanks for that. Had been curious about (but not overly enticed by) the Heffo book and the GAAconomics one (could they not have come up with a better title for the latter?). Might be giving the former a miss now – I’m not a big Liam Hayes fan at the best of times anyway and I doubt I’m alone in that regard.

    It’s not a new one but this Christmas won’t pass without me getting my teeth into Christy O’Connor’s “The Club” – previously discussed on here – I’ve dropped more than a few hints so expecting it to be in my stocking next Wednesday or I’ll be having words with Mr. Claus 😉

    Mayo McHale, you’re right. I’ve never shied away from looking back but this year still hurts like hell. There’s just been a Today FM promo on the radio right this second – an excerpt of the commentary just after the final whistle on 22nd September, no less – and I’m after breaking out in a cold sweat just listening to it. I’ve no stomach this year for the 2013 reviews either, despite it being such a cracker in both codes. My eyes are firmly fixed on 2014.

  3. I’ve been away for awhile but I’m still here. Looking forward to the christmas and the break to spend some real time with my family. Some brilliant comments on the site most notable pebblesmellers break down about the day which is consigned now to our collective memories. Personally I never ever want to experience that again. I know that’s selfish when so many others have given so much more. I would like to wish all proud and defiant Mayo people a very merry christmas. This Mayo squad represent the best in all of us the good the bad and the down right ugly. My wish for christmas regarding this Mayo team is that they truly understand how great they are and the importance of the legacy that is well within them to leave behind, to inspire the future generations. Never more has a tufted mildewed cliche been more apt, “Mayo’s time is now!

    Mayo, Time to Stand!

  4. Hi All,
    I just want to wish you all a very Happy Christmas I really enjoy your comments and I enjoyed the good company of some Mayo fans in September. The very best of luck in 2014.

    Kind Regards,
    Martin the Dub

  5. I’ll second that too, Anne-Marie and indeed to your good self and all the mad Mayo supporters – have a good one.

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