Bringing Cork GAA to book... a sporting fix in the latest lockdown

Denis Hurley worked with Larry Tompkins on his autobiography Believe
Bringing Cork GAA to book... a sporting fix in the latest lockdown

James Madden of Dublin in action against Robbie O'Flynn of Cork. Ray McManus and the Sportsfile team produce A Season of Sundays book each year.

WHEN the first lockdown came and we expected to be cooped up for a few weeks (oh, the optimism), there were quite a few social-media posts telling us how best to cope with the new normal.

Go for walks, they said, de-clutter the spare room, paint the shed and write that book you’d always been threatening to. For me, it was the latter, though to be fair the wheels had been set in motion the previous summer when it had been agreed that I would ghost-write Larry Tompkins’ autobiography, Believe.

Nevertheless, the downtime was a help in being able to finish the book and hopefully quite a few of you reading this received it as a Christmas present.

Putting together 80,000 words in something approaching a coherent format can be mentally quite tiring – it’s not a case of being able to rattle off four or five chapters at a time – and reaching the finish line in one piece is a mix of achievement and relief, as well as feeling that you don’t want to touch another book for a good while, let alone write one.

Of course, knee-jerk reactions are called that for a reason and that immediate emotion softens as time passes. So it was that, when former Meath footballer Liam Hayes of Hero Books, who published Larry’s book (and Everything by Denis Coughlan, assisted by the wonderful Tadhg Coakley) got in touch before Christmas, I didn’t immediately shoo him away.

Hero Books is a busy brand – as well as Tompkins and Coughlan, they did autobiographies of Len Gaynor, Michael Ryan, Paddy Doherty, Richie Bennis in 2020 and there are a lot more to follow in 2021. Of interest to those on Leeside will be that of former Cork City player and manager John Caulfield as well as an interesting one featuring John and David Meyler, co-written with Fintan O’Toole of

As well as those focusing on a single sportsman or woman, a new avenue explored by Hero late in 2020 was the ‘Game of My Life’ series. The early offerings covered Tipperary and Galway hurling and the hope is that, in time, every county will be covered.

From a Cork point of view, there will be two versions, one hurling and one football, and I am the person lucky enough to be asked to put them together. 

Essentially, the premise is that a number of former players (25 each in the Cork cases) give first-hand accounts of the one game that they hold dear, with the whole book thereby essentially forming an oral history covering a half-century or so.

Picking an objective ‘best 50’ players to have played for Cork across the two codes is an impossible task in that unanimity would be impossible to achieve, but the key is ensuring that those chosen will provide tales that are interesting, illuminating and informative. And, with another lockdown to contend with, there should be ample opportunity to ensure that the projects are given the attention they deserve. Put them on the list for Christmas 2021!

Elsewhere, it’s all a bit quiet, isn’t it? 

No Munster Hurling League or McGrath Cup to kick-start the GAA year and to provide unusual photographic opportunities for the snappers of Inpho and Sportsfile. To stay on the book theme, Sportsfile’s A Season of Sundays was a notable absentee from under the Christmas tree this year, the first time since 1996 that it hadn’t been in the shops.

However, that is not because the series has ceased but rather because the late finish of the GAA season meant that production schedules couldn’t accommodate such a quick turnaround. Thankfully, the work of Sportsfile boss Ray McManus and his team will be available to purchase from January 25, with pre-orders being taken online now.

Of all years, 2020 is the one that we’ll probably look back on in the future, just to make sure that it wasn’t all a fever dream, and having a photographic record of what went on in the empty stadiums will be a valuable resource.

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