John Delaney exposé top Irish 2020 title as Old Ireland in Colour makes €1m sales

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse is overall bestseller

John Boorman once said: “Movie-making is the process of turning money into light.” The publishers of Old Ireland in Colour have discovered that turning black and white photographs into colour is a surefire moneyspinner. It is the only book to have made more than €1 million in Ireland last year.

The practice of colourising black and white photographs may be controversial but there is no doubting its popularity. Old Ireland in Colour by John Breslin and Sarah-Anne Buckley, published by Merrion Press, sold 48,475 copies, earning almost €1.14 million.

Champagne Football by Mark Tighe and Paul Rowan (Sandycove) was Ireland’s best-selling Irish-published book last year with 49,307 copies sold. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy (Ebury Press) was Ireland’s overall best-selling book with 67,926 copies sold in total, just ahead of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Mackesy’s illustrated book with inspirational messages started life as a series of Instagram posts by the artist. Owens’s debut novel, a coming-of-age tale that is also a murder mystery, has sold more than eight million copies since actor Reese Witherspoon picked it for her book club. She is to coproduce the film version, which has been adapted by Oscar-nominated Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and will star Normal People’s Daisy Edgar-Jones.


Michael McLoughlin, managing director of Penguin Random House Ireland, said: “We are thrilled that Champagne Football is Ireland’s No 1 bestselling Irish-published book of 2020. From the beginning, we were so proud to publish such an important, entertaining and impactful book. To see it reach so many readers and homes is such a joy.”

Mark Tighe said: “Myself and my co-author, Paul Rowan, have been absolutely blown away by the reaction to Champagne Football. I want to thank every single person who went out and bought this book or who ordered it online. This has been a unique opportunity to weave all of our journalism into one story, and it would not have been possible without the backing of so many readers at home.”

Paul Rowan said: “I am over the moon that Champagne Football has done so well. The fact that it is has reached not only football fans but readers of all kinds and ages really means the world to myself and Mark. I hope it has informed, entertained and distracted in what has been a tumultuous year for so many.”

Conor Graham, publisher at Merrion Press, said: "It is an extraordinary achievement by the publishing and author team of Old Ireland in Colour to sell almost 50,000 copies in just over 10 weeks, and a very welcome surprise to generate over €1 million in retail sales, in what was otherwise a challenging year for the Irish book trade. I believe we had the bestselling title in Ireland for the six consecutive weeks before Christmas, and to win the award for Best Irish Published Book of the Year in the Irish Book Awards was also very rewarding.

"Our utmost thanks go to our amazing author team of John Breslin and Sarah-Anne Buckley for their vision for the book and their dedication to the wider Old Ireland project. It's an amazing result from such a young imprint within Irish publishing – Merrion Press was only established in 2012 – and I would particularly like to thank my fellow Irish publishers who have been so generous with their support and congratulations in a wonderful spirit of collegiality."

John Breslin said: "We are so delighted to be the only Irish book to hit €1million in sales! This is an unbelievable milestone for us, especially given that the book only came out three months from the end of the year, and we really must thank all of our readers, and our fantastic publishing team of Conor, Pa, Maeve and Grace at Merrion Press and Peter our publicist for believing in this project to bring our past back to life.

"We have also been really inspired by the lovely stories we have been receiving from our readers, in particular regarding how much pleasure the book has brought to so many people during this holiday season.”

Graham Norton is the bestselling Irish novelist. His third novel, Home Stretch, sold 46,182 copies. Sally Rooney’s Normal People, doubtless boosted by the hit TV adaptation, sold 40,073 copies.

Barack Obama outsold Mary McAleese by just over 5,000 copies in the battle of the presidential memoirs but crime trumped politics with Marie Cassidy’s Beyond the Tape: The Life and Many Deaths of a State Pathologist selling over 40,000 copies, closely followed by another scientist, Never Mind the B#ll*cks, Here’s the Science by Luke O’Neill, suggesting that Irish readers still have time for experts.

Ireland’s bestselling books of 2020

1. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy (Ebury Press 68,749

2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Corsair) 64,038

3. Champagne Football: John Delaney and the Betrayal of Irish Football by Mark Tighe & Paul Rowan (Penguin Ireland) 49,307

4. Old Ireland in Colour by John Breslin and Sarah-Anne Buckley (Merrion Press) 48,475

5. Home Stretch by Graham Norton (Coronet ) 46,182

6. Beyond the Tape: The Life and Many Deaths of a State Pathologist by Marie Cassidy (Hachette Books Ireland) 40,806

7. Normal People by SallyRooney (Faber & Faber) 40,073

8. Code Name Bananas by David Walliams (HarperCollins)38,918

9. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Viking) 33,805

10. Guinness World Records 2021 (Guinness World Records) 33,778

11. Never Mind the B#ll*cks, Here’s the Science by Luke O’Neill (Gill Books) 32,170

12. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Deep End by Jeff Kinney (Puffin) 30,153

13. The Daly Dish: 100 Masso Slimming Meals for Everyday by Gina and Karol Daly (Gill Books) 29,564

14. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Tinder Press) 29,134

15. Grown Ups by Marian Keyes (Michael Joseph) 28,420

16. A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Viking) 28,254

17. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Orion) 23,762

18. Here’s the Story: A Memoir by Mary McAleese (Penguin Ireland) 22,856

19. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (Faber & Faber) 22,135

20. Braywatch by Ross O’Carroll-Kelly (Penguin Ireland) 21,415

21. Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan (Doubleday Ireland) 20,516

22. A Light That Never Goes Out: A Memoir by Keelin Shanley (Gill Books) 20,443

23. Slime by David Walliams (HarperCollins)20,390

24. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (Penguin) 20,189

25. The World’s Worst Parents by David Walliams (HarperCollins) 19,692