Malachy Clerkin's guide to the best sports books for children

Rugby, soccer and a colouring book of Ireland's best female sports stars

Gordon's Game by Gordon D'Arcy and Paul Howard (Penguin Ireland, €12.99) – As far as anyone can tell, this is the first time anyone's had the idea of a famous sportsperson releasing their "autobiography" in the form of a kid's novel. It's a sign of the bang-up job he and Paul Howard have done here that at no time are you wondering whether there's a very good reason for that.

Once you nestle yourself into the world of a book that takes the schoolboy D’Arcy and plonks him into his Ireland career fully formed, you buckle in for a funny, fantastical magic carpet ride. D’Arcy is great company the whole way and the message of the book - you will make mistakes but you can always come back from them - is there without ever being ladled on too thick.

Football Fiesta and Rugby Redzone, both by Gerard Siggins (O'Brien Press, €9.99) are the first children's novels in a new series by the author of the best-selling Rugby Spirit books. The new series, based around a submarine sports academy, is a ripping yarn as five girls and boys learn about their sports as enemies close in.

Rugby Redzone climaxes at a junior World Cup in Japan - with a happier ending for the Irish kids than real life provided in the autumn. Football Fiesta brings the kids deep into the South American jungle to play the most important match in the history of the Academy. Both books are packed with secrets and mysteries and adventure, as if the sports themselves didn’t have enough to begin with.


The other great idea this year that will have had plenty of people gnawing at their fists in frustration at not thinking of it first is She Can by Paul Dollery and Chris Judge (The 42, €7.99). It's a colouring book but it's more than a colouring book. All the figures found within it are female Irish sports stars, from Katie Taylor to Ellen Keane to Natalya Coyle and dozens more. And each picture – drawn by award-winning illustrator Judge – is accompanied by a Q&A with the star themselves. The perfect introduction to the stars of Irish sport for girls and boys alike.

Malachy Clerkin's guide to the best sports books of 2019 will appear in Saturday's Irish Times and online at