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Dublin: 1 °C Tuesday 22 January, 2019

27 sports books to spend your Christmas vouchers on

Featuring Jonny Sexton, George Best, Owen Mulligan and much more…

1. Heroes – the Best of Inpho Sports Photography


(INPHO/Donall Farmer)

Description: The sports photography agency celebrates its 25th anniversary with pictures and info (no pun intended) on some of Irish sport’s most memorable images.

2. Tales from the Secret Footballer by The Secret Footballer


Description: Players, agents, coaches and managers are all interviewed anonymously by the Secret Footballer, with each providing intriguing insights into the modern game in the process.

What the critics are saying: “The Banksy of the beautiful game “– Shortlist.

3. Mugsy: My Story by Owen Mulligan and Orla Bannon


Description: A look at the career of the Tyrone player, which covers everything from his take on sports psychology to his rivalry with Paul Galvin.

4. Immortal: The Approved Biography of George Best by Duncan Hamilton


Description: A comprehensively researched look at the life of one of Ireland’s greatest ever athletes.

What the critics are saying: “This compulsively readable book will not be the last written about Best, but it may prove to be the most illuminating” — Independent on Sunday.

5. GAAconomics: The Secret Life of Money in the GAA by Michael Moynihan


Description: A look at the economics of the GAA and the directions in which it may turn in the future.

What the critics are saying: “Sports journalist Moynihan investigates the economics of the GAA through its many remifications and arguments, and finds that the sports body, tagged by some as the Grab-All-Association, is rather more complex than you might imagine” — Donal O Donoghue, RTÉ Guide.

6. I Am Zlatan Ibrahimović by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Lagercrantz and Ruth Urbom


Description: One of the world’s best and most eccentric strikers looks back on his distinguished career.

What the critics are saying: “The best footballer’s autobiography of recent years is probably I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic” — Simon Kuper.

7. The Fairytale of New York – The Story Behind Cavan’s Greatest Victory by Paul Fitzpatrick


Description: A detailed look at Cavan’s famous win over Kerry in the only All-Ireland senior final played outside the country.

What the critics are saying: “What this excellent read proves, quite apart from being enjoyable, is that the quirky, off-the-wall book on the GAA is still worth pursuing” — Belfast Telegraph.

8. Fear And Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona Vs Real Madrid by Sid Lowe


Description: An examination of arguably world football’s greatest rivalry — between Barcelona and Real Madrid — and an explanation of the cultural factors that have caused it to intensify over the years.

What the critics are saying: “Football Books of the Year: Sid Lowe isn’t an ordinary football writer and, as a result, this is not an ordinary football book. Lowe paces it all so well … like an engaging lesson from your favourite teacher” — Daily Mirror.

9. Victory Loves Preparation by Emmet Ryan


Description: A look at how tactics are shaping modern GAA amid analysis of some of the year’s biggest matches.

What the critics are saying: “There’s a massive shift in Irish sport — and a welcome one — to forensic analysis of why and how things happened as opposed to a simple retelling of what happened. Emmet Ryan is undoubtedly part of that movement” — Ger Gilroy.

10. Red or Dead by David Peace


Description: A work of fiction based on Bill Shankly’s time as manager of Liverpool, from the author of The Damned United.

What the critics are saying: “Peace … again proves himself to be magnificently single-minded and unbiddable, and has recognised in Shankly another brilliant and pioneering obsessive of his profession” — Mark Lawson.

11. Inside Team Sky by David Walsh


Description: Journalist David Walsh recalls his time spent in close quarters examining some of the world’s most eminent cyclists.

What the critics are saying: “Solid investigative journalism — neither Team Sky nor David Walsh disappoint” — Amazon customer review.

12. The Rocky Road by Eamon Dunphy


Description: A look at the early parts of veteran journalist and broadcaster Eamon Dunphy’s life, and in particular, his football career both as a player and pundit.

What the critics are saying: “Fans of the man, or even just seasoned watchers, will feel they’ve waited a lifetime for this book. It’s unlikely they’ll be disappointed” — Paul Howard.

13. Heffo – A Brilliant Mind: A Biography of Kevin Heffernan by Liam Hayes


Description: A biography of the legendary Dublin player and manager, providing insights into both his days as a distinguished player and a coach who helped revolutionise the sport.

14. Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble by Graham Hunter


Description: Spanish-based Scottish journalist Graham Hunter recalls the unprecedented achievements of the Spanish football team in winning three consecutive tournaments, while looking at the innovative methods they adopted from youth level upwards to attain such greatness.

15. Undisputed Truth by Mike Tyson and Larry Sloman


Description: A warts-and-all retelling of Mike Tyson’s early days as a vulnerable young kid to his rise to become the world’s greatest boxer, in addition to exploring the effects of fame and Tyson’s difficulty in shaking off the scars of a traumatic childhood.

What the critics are saying: “Might be the most soul-baring book of its genre ever written” — Washington Post.

16. The Anatomy of Liverpool by Jonathan Wilson


Description: One of the world’s most decorated soccer clubs has their history scrutinised amid ten pivotal games in which they were involved.

17. Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang


Description: The winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year depicts an era in which British horse racing was dogged by gangsterism and countless other unsavoury influences.

What the critics are saying: “A marvellous evocation of the period with late night stable visits by dopers, Soho gangsters, milk bars and Ford Zephyrs” –The Sunday Times.

18. A History of the Premier League in 10 Matches by Jim White


Description: The manner in which the Premier League has developed and altered since its inception is examined through 10 of the most definitive matches in its history.

What the critics are saying: “Cleverly done … writing of the highest quality … a superb book” — The Bookbag.

19. The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein


Description: The way in which athletes are formed and the nature/nurture debate and its relevance to sport is looked at in a highly forensic manner by author David Epstein.

What the critics are saying: “An important book on the relative roles of genes and environment-nature and nurture-in the building of a professional athlete … bound to put the cat among the pigeons” — Wall Street Journal.

20. The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football is Wrong by Chris Anderson and David Sally


Description: Taking its cue from the classic baseball book, Moneyball,  The Numbers Game dissects various statistics in soccer and outlines their relevance in shaping the outcome of matches.

What the critics are saying: “A fascinating and stylish investigation into a rapidly developing way of understanding football” — Jonathan Wilson.

21. The Outsider: My Autobiography by Jimmy Connors


Description: A look at the career of one of tennis’ most brilliant and idiosyncratic personalities.

What the critics are saying: “An engrossing five-setter, with intense exchanges and no tiebreakers… Like the individualists Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, Pete Rose and Chuck Berry, Connors was authentic. The book reflects that swagger” — New York Times.

22. The Nowhere Men by Michael Calvin


Description: A look into the under-reported world of football scouts and the essential role they play in identifying top talent.

What the critics are saying: “I commend to you The Nowhere Men by Michael Calvin — brilliant book, great journalism ” — Ian Herbert The Independent.

23. Becoming a Lion by Jonny Sexton


Description: The Irish outhalf recalls a memorable year in which he helped the Lions to a series win over Australia and made a controversial move from Leinster to Racing Metro.

What the critics are saying: “Sets a great benchmark for sports autobiographies, given that it is so honest” — Matt Cooper, Today FM.

24. Messi by Guilleme Balague


Description: The acclaimed Spanish journalist takes an in-depth look at arguably the greatest footballer in the world.

25. How NOT to be a Football Millionaire by Keith Gillespie and Daniel McDonnell


Description: The former Manchester United footballer gives an insightful account of life as a Premier League footballer and the pitfalls it often entails.

What the critics are saying: “A powerful, honest and at times shocking autobiography.” Manchester Evening News.

26. José Mourinho: The Rise of the Translator by Ciaran Kelly


Description: Irish journalist Ciaran Kelly interviews many of those who formed an early influence on Jose Mourinho’s rise to eventually become one of the greatest managers in football.

What the critics are saying: “Enlightening interviews with those who really know José Mourinho” — Simon Kuper, Financial Times.

27. Six Stickers: A Journey to Complete an Old Sticker Album by Adam Carroll-Smith


Description: Journalist Adam Carroll-Smith stumbles upon an old football album in which only six stiickers are missing. Consequently, he decides to track down the players in question and get their photos to put in the album.

What the critics are saying: “An absurdly brilliant idea” — Oliver Kay, The Times

(Image credits:

What have we missed?

Graham Hunter on the greatest achievement in the history of international football and why England can dominate one day>

‘For me, the interest in writing about sport is nearly always about human endeavour’>

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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