Four contributions with strong Westmeath connections are part of a compelling new GAA book written by those at the heart of the sport.
‘Grassroots: The Second Half’ is a gold mine of GAA tales spanning over 150 years and follows the publication of a successful first volume last year.
“The GAA and I were astounded by the response to the first edition. This collection is slightly different to the first in that as well as having the usual stories from the deep roots of rural society, there are also numerous stories where people from other sports and walks of life talk of their GAA experiences,” book editor, PJ Cunningham, who collaborated with Croke Park on both publications, said.
Former Irish rugby international Ollie Campbell, ex-snooker world champion Ken Doherty, and Vienna-based opera singer Tom Birch, all explain how they became big fans of Gaelic games.
“Virtually no subject escapes in the 400 pages, with tales of a parish priest’s curse, referees officiating with watches which didn’t work to players taking ‘leaks’ on the field of play.
“All human life is in there whether it is going to and from matches or in one case, the story where a Kilkenny fan got locked into a well-known Dublin pub while his team won the All Ireland hurling final a mile away in Croke Park.
“This book provides snapshots into the history of the GAA, recounted by the people at the heart of the action, whether those stories are happy or sad, sensational or ordinary,” Cunngham commented.
Stories span and reflect the Westmeath GAA kaleidoscope with Waterford-born Tom Hunt writing a gripping narrative about how two penalties caused uproar in his adopted county.
Collinstown resident Ann Curran recalls the amazing tale of her grandfather’s exploits at the turn of the last century when, on missing a train, he jumped on his bike and cycled 60 miles to play for Westmeath against Dublin in the capital.
Other stories with a Westmeath flavour include Vincent Cryan’s Moate odyssey and Seamus McRory’s account of Eamon Coleman’s appearance in a Westmeath senior football final for Athlone against St Malachy’s in 1981 – the week after he played in the Derry senior football final.
GAA President Larry McCarthy said the book highlighted “the value of the folklore and stories built up around our games.”
“What these two Grassroots books do is ensure they become available to a wider audience as most, if not all, of these stories are being published for the first time,” he said.
Grassroots: The Second Half, priced at €19.99, is available now nationwide and from: www.ballpointpress.ie