Local and universal truths to the fore in gritty memoirs
GAELIC GAMES:The GAA literary offering is not what it used to be.
Blame publisher burnout, reader fatigue or just the dismal, all-pervasive effects of recession, but the annual flood of GAA books onto the market has, this year, been replaced by a mere trickle.
But if output has reduced, its focus remains the same. Memoir continues to dominate, and where once big-name hurlers and footballers waited for the mud to encrust on their boots before casting a backward glance on their sporting days, many opt now to do it in the full stride of the playing careers, when their public profiles are still riding high.
Where the likes of Oisín McConville and Donal Óg Cusack have in recent years gone, Tipperary hurler Lar Corbett has this year followed. Lar Corbett: All in My Head(Transworld Ireland) is undoubtedly the box-office title in a slow season for GAA publishing.
It is, after all, only a few short months since Corbett found himself the focus of a media frenzy – and often bilious online ridicule – over the doomed tactics deployed by his Tipperary team to derail Kilkenny’s defence in this year’s All-Ireland hurling semi-final. The memory of Corbett pursuing Tommy Walsh across Croke Park as the game continued about them will linger long and the explanation he provides as to why he did it is unlikely to convince many as to whether it could ever have been considered wise.
Even so, in his recall of this and other events, Corbett emerges as nothing other than open, honest and sincere. At times refreshingly self-aware, he is as prepared to pan himself as others.
In telling his story, Corbett has been well served by fellow Tipperary-man and ghost-writer Damian Lawlor, who ensures an unflagging momentum throughout, even during moments of low drama. And there have been many: despite being a youthful member of Nicky English’s triumphant Tipperary outfit in 2001, Corbett’s early inter-county career was blighted by hamstring troubles and less than healthy relationships with a succession of Tipperary managers – he would play under six in five years.
What changed was the appointment of Liam Sheedy and his new management team in 2007.
Where previously he played in fear of sideline censure, Corbett was suddenly encouraged to trust his instincts and play with abandon.
Indeed, the new management’s hurling philosophy was, he suggests, almost elegant in its simplicity – “There’s the field, there’s the posts and here’s your hurley. Now go out and play.”
If Sheedy commanded total loyalty and respect, it is the relationship between Corbett and Eamon O’Shea, a selector with Sheedy and the incoming Tipperary boss, that leaves the lasting impression.
Corbett extols O’Shea’s role – as trainer, tactician, psychologist and motivator – and ends the book by signalling an ambition to stay involved with OShea and Tipperary in the coming year, albeit without the kind of the distractions to which, he concedes, he has contributed in the past.
The very title of True Grit: the Making of Sylvie Linnane(Irish Sports Publishing) will be enough to arouse the curiosity of anyone with a penchant for 1980s sporting nostalgia – and they won’t be disappointed.
Written in co-operation with Liam Hayes and referred to in the third person throughout, Linnane picks his way through the games, the rivalries and people that shaped what might justifiably be regarded as hurling’s original revolution years.
The rise of Galway and Offaly in the early 1980s, soon followed by the re-emergence of Tipperary, shook the established hierarchical order and brought a novelty and drama to a game that was in danger of becoming drearily predictable.