Attention, ladies! If you're stuck for ideas for the GAA-loving, book reading man in your life, there are a number of suitable titles from which to choose. All the more so if you'd planned to get him The Book but have only now discovered that he went out and bought it himself, the bollix.
There's a large crop of GAA books out this year. I must confess that I haven't read those by Sean Kelly, Jack O'Connor, Oisin McConville or the new biography of Micko though, from the reviews I've seen, any of them shouldn't get flung back in your face. I have read, and enjoyed for the most part, Roland Tormey's Summertime Blues, a nostalgic account of what it felt like to follow Dublin on their way to their last All-Ireland in 1995.
That was the last long, hot Summer in these parts and it was also the final one that I spent in London (where the Summer that year was even longer and hotter than over here) and, having missed all of that year's championship (as well as most of the previous seven), the stuff about Jayo scoring the goal in his stockinged feet and the controversy about Charlie Redmond's sending-off in the final were stories I'd only heard about vaguely in the past. The story is mainly recounted, a la Nick Hornby, from the author's perspective as a member of the blue horde on the Hill but it's also interspersed with interviews with a few of the players. Personally, I'd have preferred if he'd stuck with his own story as the bits told through the players' eyes was the kind of stuff you could have read in any newspaper article.
The other odd thing was that, for all his talk about yearning to see the Dubs win Sam again, he has very little to say about what he felt like and what he did when they finally did go and win it. Did he run down O'Connell Street buck naked? Did he go on the piss for three whole weeks? (Either could happen to WJ, dear reader, were Mayo ever to triumph again). It would have been nice to know what he thought of seeing his team reach the summit and what the view looked like from there.
The other book I'd point you towards is Michael Foley's excellent Kings of September. This was, I thought, a bit like reading The Day of the Jackal, in that you know the ending but it doesn't spoil the story. (De Gaulle doesn't get shot in Michael Foley's book either). Seeing as the denouement results in defeat for Kerry and their hopes of making history smashed to smithereens, it made, all told, for rather enjoyable reading. The film version is, I see, on TG4 on Christmas Day and I'm already looking forward to putting my feet up beside the fire (sorry, Bronwen!) with a glass or two and waiting for that magic moment - which is almost as good as that bit in Mary Poppins where she first appears in the sky holding her brolly - when Seamus Darby has his date with destiny. Ho! Ho! Ho!