I opened Dave Hannigan’s ‘Boy Wonder’ with great expectations

Eamon Dunphy: This sportswriter's memoir of Cork is evocative but lacks wider reach

Dave Hannigan: his memoir of Cork fails to convey a sense of place or time.

Dave Hannigan: his memoir of Cork fails to convey a sense of place or time.

Sat, Oct 7, 2017, 06:00

   
 

Book Title:
Boy Wonder: Tales from the Sidelines of an Irish Childhood

ISBN-13:
978-0717178926

Author:
Dave Hannigan

Publisher:
Gill Books

Guideline Price:
£12.99

Dave Hannigan is a very good sportswriter. He worked for the Sunday Tribune and contributes to this newspaper from America where he now resides. Dave has a couple of outstanding books to his name: one about Brendan Behan in America bears witness to the writer’s tragic decline. The other, equally poignant, is an account of Muhammad Ali’s last fight in the Bahamas.

Hannigan is also a professor of history at Suffolk Community College on Long Island. The “boy wonder” has done well. Like most Corkonians, Dave is shrewder than the rest of us. No irony intended here. I lived in Cork for almost three years finding the natives delightfully, sardonically, alive to life’s possibilities and vicissitudes.

Formative influences

I opened Boy Wonder with great expectations. This memoir of Hannigan’s childhood is set in the 1970s and early 1980s. Sadly the book fails to convey a sense of place or time or, critically, any clues about the formative influences that guided Hannigan along his journey to a career of some distinction.

Hannigan’s love of sport is extensively chronicled. He is bewitched by Steve Davis, Michel Platini and, of course, Cork’s own sporting genius, Jimmy Barry Murphy.

After watching Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky films, Dave decides he wants to be a boxer. “When I appraised my mother of this plan she was as unsupportive as ever,” Hannigan remembers, “There’s a want in you boy,” his mother remarks, “a want”.

That’s a nice line, a touch of Corkonian wisdom distilled. Elsewhere Boy Wonder is too conventional, evocative if you come from Togher, a suburb of Cork’s southside where it is set, but for those with wider horizons it tapers off in the end like a best man’s speech gone wrong.