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22 of our favourite sports books from 2018

Featuring Tiger Woods, Andy Lee, Seán Cavanagh and Cora Staunton among others.
Dec 31st 2018, 8:15 AM 8,603 7

Updated at 10.57

N.B. THIS LIST is in no particular order.

1. The Boy on the Shed by Paul Ferris (Hodder & Stoughton)

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Sports books are rarely written by their subjects, yet former Newcastle footballer Paul Ferris more than justifies his choice of himself as author with an exceptionally told story that is ostensibly about his bittersweet time in football but also encompasses a deeper look at his experiences growing up amid the Troubles, as well as the profundity and pain of dealing with life and death.

2. The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee by Paul D. Gibson (Mercier Press)

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A brutally honest look at the life of the immensely talented and tormented boxer Eamonn Magee. Several of the passages from this book are likely to linger long after they have been read.

3. The Obsession — Seán Cavanagh with Damian Lawlor (Black and White Publishing)

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An aptly titled book, ‘Obsession’ explores the irrepressible drive and numerous sacrifices the former Tyrone footballer Seán Cavanagh made to reach the pinnacle of his sport, winning three All-Irelands and getting five All-Stars at no small personal cost.

4. Game Changer — Cora Staunton (Penguin Ireland and Transworld Ireland)

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Winner of four All-Ireland football titles and 11 All-Stars, Staunton is widely regarded as one of the best players to have played the game and she is a fascinating character to boot, as ‘Game Changer’ highlights.

5. The Hurlers — Paul Rouse (Penguin Ireland and Transworld Ireland)

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An entertaining and well-researched exploration of the politics behind the game of hurling and how the sport as we know it came to fruition, written by acclaimed author, UCD history lecturer and former Offaly football manager Paul Rouse.

6. Fighter — Andy Lee with Niall Kelly (Gill Books)

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One of three books shortlisted for the Eir Sports Book of the Year, if Irish boxing legend Andy Lee wasn’t already a national treasure, then his inspiring and superbly written story penned in conjunction with The42‘s Niall Kelly should consolidate that status.

7. Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian (Simon & Schuster)

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There have been countless books published on Tiger Woods, but consider this one the definitive account of his fairytale story. Years of painstaking research by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian has culminated in an unforgettable insight into this notoriously private individual, who so happens to be the greatest golfer of all time.

8. Tony 10 — Declan Lynch and Tony O’Reilly (Gill Books)

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The astonishing story of a Gorey-based postman whose gambling addiction led to him losing millions, ‘Tony 10′ is a frequently unsettling, heartbreaking and important read.

9. Two Tribes: Liverpool, Everton and a City on the Brink — Tony Evans (Bantam Press, Penguin Random House)

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A detailed look at one of the most successful and symbolically significant seasons in the history of football on Merseyside, the 1985-86 campaign took place following the Heysel disaster and the cloud that had been cast over the city as a result. Amid this tense environment, Liverpool and Everton were the two best teams in the league, as well as being neck and neck in the race for major honours, and author Tony Evans captures the ambience and intensity of this era brilliantly.

10. State of Play: Under the Skin of the Modern Game by Michael Calvin (Century, Penguin Random House)

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A stark assessment of modern football, Michael Calvin continues to write brilliantly on football whether his focus is on the startling list of ex-pros who have succumbed to dementia, the various challenges facing women’s football or the wide range of other subjects this illuminating book covers.

11. A Boy in the Water by Tom Gregory (Particular Books, Penguin Random House)

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A deserving co-winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award alongside ‘The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee,’ ‘A Boy in the Water’ tells the remarkable story of Tom Gregory, who in September 1988 became the youngest person ever to swim the English channel aged 11, simultaneously documenting the unique bond he formed with coach John Bullet as the pair undertook this incredible journey.

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12. Driven — Rosemary Smith with Ann Ingle (Harper Collins)

driven

Books about female motorsport stars are not exactly commonplace, but Rosemary Smith’s ‘Driven’ deserves to be widely read, as it documents her unbelievable life both inside and outside of sport.

13. The Grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen and the Match That Made Chess Great Again by Brin-Jonathan Butler (Simon & Schuster)

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A book that will be appreciated by both chess aficionados and people with limited knowledge of the game, ‘The Grandmaster’ takes Magnus Carlsen and the 2016 World Championship as its starting point, but delves deeper into the history game and the many often complex, troubled and fascinating characters that inhabit it.

14. Behind the Lines, No. 2: Great Irish Sports Stories from The42 — The42.ie (Journal Media)

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Yes, we’re biased and consider this a shameless plug, but perhaps rather than offer some self-praise, it’s best to quote Guardian journalist Donald McRae: “Fine sports writing… as compelling as it is often amusing and touching. These are stories that go far beyond sport, and they still resonate long after they have been read.”

15. The Man Who Was Never Knocked Down — Rónán Mac Iomaire (Rowman and Littlefield)

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A book that looks at the extraordinary life of Boston-based Irish boxer Seán Mannion, from his childhood in Galway to his rise to the top of pro boxing, and subsequent battles with alcoholism among other challenges, ‘The Man Who Was Never Down’ is a consistently brilliant and unflinching read.

16. Sevens Heaven: The Beautiful Chaos of Fiji’s Olympic Dream by Ben Ryan (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, The Orion Publishing Group)

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The incredible and improbable story of how Englishman Ben Ryan came to coach the Fiji sevens side and ultimately helped them secure Olympic gold, ‘Sevens Heaven’ is as extraordinary a yarn as it is immensely readable from start to finish.

17. Berlin 1936 Sixteen Days in August by Oliver Hilmes (The Bodley Head, Penguin Random House)

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A comprehensive re-telling of Berlin 1936, one of the most controversial Olympic Games in history, Oliver Hilmes’ William Hill-nominated read provides a nuanced portrait of the dark forces that were shaping Germany at the time and how they cynically used sport as a major propaganda vehicle.

18. On the Seventh Day: Thirty Years of Great Sports Writing from the Sunday Independent (Mercier Press)

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A collection of some of the best sports journalism published in The Sunday Independent over the past 30 years, ‘On the Seventh Day’ includes countless memorable pieces, including Eamon Dunphy’s story of the day he met George Best for a drink and Paul Kimmage’s look ‘Inside the team that Mick built’.

19. At All Costs — Davy Fitzgerald with Vincent Hogan (Gill Books)

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A book on one of the most successful and infamous GAA coaches of recent years and ghostwritten by the prolific and acclaimed Irish Independent journalist Vincent Hogan, ‘At All Costs’ provides an insight into what makes this controversial figure tick.

20. My Life in Football by Kevin Keegan with Daniel Taylor (Macmillan)

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Former Newcastle and England manager Kevin Keegan and Guardian journalist Daniel Taylor collaborate to tell the entertaining story of one of the most popular and inimitable characters in British football, from participating in that unforgettable 1995-96 title race with Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United to his clashes with controversial Magpies owner Mike Ashley.

21. You’ll Never Walk by Andy Grant (deCoubertin Books)

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A remarkable tale of resilience that examines the life of Andy Grant, a British soldier who awakes in hospital after being blown up during a routine foot patrol in Afghanistan. As well as suffering serious injuries to various parts of his body, he is told by his doctor that he will never be able to have children. ‘You’ll Never Walk’ documents his extraordinary recovery and how he ultimately became the world’s fastest single leg amputee.

22.Red Card: FIFA and the Fall of the Most Powerful Men In Sports by Ken Bensinger (Profile Books)

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A riveting look at the scale of and story behind the Fifa corruption scandal, providing comprehensive portraits of the various figures involved. This unexpected page turner by Buzzfeed News investigative journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist Ken Bensinger is set to be turned into a major film.

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