Faith, family ties, legends, flesh and blood among the sporting subjects explored by Hero Books
The imprint of former Meath footballer and journalist Liam Hayes, 'Hero Books' lives up to its label by celebrating the past stars of the GAA, occasionally bringing it right up to the present day stars. Given the pronunciation problem of the feminine version, Heroes are female too…
The combination of interesting subject and knowledgeable writers works superbly. And, fear not, although the books should be found in all the proverbial 'good bookstores', they are also available on Amazon as ebooks.
Of particular Ulster interest are the life of Antrim hurling goalkeeper Niall Patterson, ghosted with typical class by Seamus Maloney of this parish, and the story of Donegal's first All-Ireland Football winning captain, Anthony Molloy, skilfully and sensitively put together by his fellow Ardara man Frank Craig.
The 'Legend' series also has the well-told story of Dublin's Mickey Whelan, while previous publications include Down football legend Paddy Doherty, Martin Og Morrissey of Waterford, Wexford's Mick Jacob, John Callinan of Clare, and Roscommon footballer Frankie Dolan.
The current powerhouse of hurling, Limerick, is the first to feature in another series, the 'Nine Lives' concept. Author Arthur James O'Dea tells the tale of Treaty hurling through the achievements of the following men: Mick Mackey, Eamonn Cregan, Joe McGrath, Tommy Quaid, Ger Hegarty, Tom Ryan, Shane Fitzgibbon, Stephen Lucey, right up to present-day hero Shane Dowling.
The 'Flesh and Blood' range tells family sagas, including the updated cross-code account of Cork's Meylers – dad John in hurling, son David in soccer – and Tipperary hurling's Bonnars, brothers Cormac, Colm, and Conal.
There's also the fascinating story of another trio of brothers, Joe, Billy, and Johnny Dooley, who made up half of the Offaly hurling attack and helped the Faithful County to two senior All-Irelands in the 1990s.
The 'Game of My Life' series has kept expanding, now covering a wide range of counties in both football and hurling, in the case of Carlow a combination of both. In the Barrowsiders' book author John Kelly has spoken to a host of local legends - Moling Morrissey, Tommy Corcoran, Cyril Hughes, Paddy Quirke, Tommy Dwyer, John Byrne, Richie Moore, Sean Kavanagh, Stephen Bambrick, Pat Coady, Willie Quinlan, Johnny Kavanagh, Niall English, John McGrath, Des Shaw, Johnny Nevin, Simon Rea, Mark Carpenter, Ruairi Dunbar, Robbie Foley, Brendan Murphy, James Clarke, James Hickey, Alan Corcoran, Denis Murphy, Brian Kelly, Daniel St Ledger, Paul Broderick, John Murphy, and Martin Kavanagh.
Cork hurling's version is in the deft hands of Denis Hurley, who interviewed the following Rebel County stars: Gerald McCarthy, Tony Maher, Brian Murphy, Martin Coleman, Tom Cashman, Ger Cunningham, John Fenton, Johnny Crowley, Jimmy Barry-Murphy, John Considine, Ger Fitzgerald, Tony O'Sullivan, Tómas Mulcahy, Seán O'Gorman, Denis Walsh, Seánie McGrath, Ronan Curran, Wayne Sherlock, Kieran Murphy, Tom Kenny, Shane O'Neill, Ben O'Connor, Stephen McDonnell, Anthony Nash, and Daniel Kearney.
Cork football has its tome too – ladies football that is. Local expert Ger McCarthy draws out the anecdotes from a host of All-Ireland winners, including Juliet Murphy, Mary O'Connor, Rena Buckley, Elaine Harte, Nollaig Cleary, Bríd Stack, Norita Kelly, Geraldine O'Flynn, Martina O'Brien, Marie Ambrose, Valerie Mulcahy, Angela Walsh, Deirdre O'Reilly, Briege Corkery, Ciara O'Sullivan, Áine Terry O'Sullivan, Shauna Kelly, Orlagh Farmer, Emma Spillane, Eimear Scally, Orla Finn, Saoirse Noonan, Doireann O'Sullivan, Hannah Looney, and Melissa Duggan.
Offaly hurling (and camogie) is looked after by Brian Lowry, who spoke to Mick Spain, Pat Joe Whelahan, Damien Martin, Liam Currams, Pat Fleury, Padraig Horan, Johnny Flaherty, Pat Delaney, Ger Coughlan, Joachim Kelly, Jim Troy, Mark Corrigan, Brian Whelahan, Johnny Dooley, John Troy, Joe Dooley, Michael Duignan, Daithi Regan, Kevin Kinahan, Johnny Pilkington, Kevin Martin, Shane Dooley, Brian Carroll, Rory Hanniffy, and and Michaela Morkan.
Previous publications include, for football, Dublin, Kerry, and Meath, while there are hurling heroes aplenty interviewed from Clare, Galway, Tipperary, and Waterford.
Sport is often said to be 'like a religion' in certain areas. 'Faith: In search of greater glory in sport', by Gerard Gallagher, looks at the impact religion has on the lives of various Irish sports stars.
Touchingly, the book includes the final interview before his sudden passing of Dublin football legend Brian Mullins, who spoke about his life, and his beliefs.
Typically, the former Derry football manager and St Vincent's icon spoke with honesty and great courage, and his words should live on with everyone who wants to succeed, but more importantly wishes to compete, without fear.
"I lean towards God who gives sense and purpose to what my world should be. Maybe it's not worked out like other people's understanding. God wants us to be good and create goodness. For me, that is trying to be the best you can be," said Mullins.
Gallagher spoke to more than 20 of Ireland's greatest sports stars, from a range of sports including boxing superstar Katie Taylor, rugby's Josh van der Flier, cyclist Sean Kelly, jockey Johnny Murtagh, and hurler Ciaran Carey. All were equally open, just like Mullins, about their lives and their faith.
Faith in themselves, faith in their teammates and backroom team, and faith in a greater power, perhaps, that can help them to reach their greatest potential on the biggest stages of their sporting careers.
Also included in this revealing book are former Meath football manager Sean Boylan, athletics heroes past and present Ronnie Delaney and Ciara Mageean, and boxers Barry McGuigan, Eamonn McAuley, and Bernard Dunne.
Galllagher also draws out the beliefs and occasional doubts, of cricketer Lena Tice, former Cork ladies footballer Niamh Cotter, Galway hurler Tony Og Regan, and swimmer Earl McCarthy.
Tracy Piggott, Olive Foley and figures from the world of chaplaincy in sport (including John Boyers, retired chaplain at Manchester United FC) also join in the conversation, while former marathon runner Gladys Ganiel, now a professor in the sociology of religion at Queen's University, Belfast, offers her insights.