At this time of year it can be very difficult to know what to get for people at Christmas. When you are 15 or 20 years married or more and the collective libido may not be what it used to be; there is always a temptation for a female to buy her partner a good book which might stop him bothering her, trying all night to do what he used to do all night.
If you feel that is the case in your relationship, a relatively enjoyable read that you could suggest is a new book just out for the Christmas market by John Scally, called The Best of the West.
The text is made up from a collection of interviews with some of the GAA greats of Connacht over the past fifty years and more. Men like, Tony McManus, Jimmy Murray, Peter Ford, Brendan Lynch, Kevin McStay, Kevin Walsh, Dermot Earley, Willie Joe Padden, Pat Lindsay, Martin Carney, Harry Keegan, and a few men that have sadly departed this world like the prince of centre-backs Bill Carlos, the great Sean Purcell, Enda Colleran,and the late John Morley help you to skip along the pages.
There are a few hurlers thrown in for good measure too such as Noel Lane, Sylvie Linnane, Sean Duggan, and Iggy Clarke, while Alan Kerins and Roscommon’s John Tiernan also feature for their terrific work in other fields of endeavour.
For Scally this was in many ways a labour of love as it must have taken an enormous amount of man hours to collate all the information and research. The result is an enjoyable read, packaged in a very well presented hard-back with the foreword by the multi-tasking Mayo man, John O’Mahony who would have known and played with and trained many of the men interviewed.
There are some very pleasant and witty anecdotes laced throughout the book and it is some of those that will bring the biggest laughs to those who stick to their guns and go through the 232 pages, which are easily leafed.
The interview with former Galway midfielder Brian Talty is especially lively and he relives the key incidents from the 1983 final. However it is commentary on former team-mate Billy Joyce, who coached St Brigid’s for a season or two that are very humourous.
Talty describes Joyce as a genuine wit and some of his stories confirm that fact.
Before a big game in Croke Park, Billy Joyce asked some of his team-mates:
“Did ye ring the airport?”
Talty did not know what he was on about, so asked him – “Why would we phone the airport?”
Billy replied: “To tell them not to have airplanes flying over Croke Park. I’m going to be jumping so high, I don’t want to be in collision with any of them!”
Another quick one-liner from Joyce, concerned a day Galway were playing Roscommon in Pearse Stadium on an atrocious wet day. Before the throw-in one of the Roscommon midfielders said to Billy: “T’is an awful wet day for football”.
Billy looked at him and said: “You don’t have to worry about it. You won’t be in it for very long.”
The respective interviews from Mayo Advertiser columnist John Maughan and former Mayo star Kevin O’Neill are also very interesting and their different perspectives of the reason why O’Neill did not feature much in Mayo’s championship teams when John wore the Bainisteoir bib in the All-Ireland finals of 1996 and 1997 are definitely worth a read.
Maughan is extremely frank and points out how he was astounded at the sort of form that Kevin produced for Mayo in 2006. He also points out that – “I had absolutely no agenda. If I felt he was one of my best players surely I would have brought him on if I thought he could help us win an All-Ireland?”
Harry Keegan who made many of the top 15 team selections at corner back from his era tells a good story about a duel he had with Dublin’s Charlie Redmond.
“A week before we played Dublin in the league, I had played against Redmond in a league game and he had been sensational. Charlie, though, did not like the close attention. He was a big man but was a bit soft and didn’t like the physical stuff. I managed to get a clatter on him in the league game and he went down like a stack of spuds. One of his own players came running up to him and said:
‘Get up you f**ker, he didn’t hit you half hard enough”.
On a most Christian note, possibly the nicest epitaph that anyone in the book receives is the late Bill Carlos. When Cardinal Tomas O’Fiaich was asked what he would like to have achieved as a sports man, he stated: “To play centre-back like Bill Carlos”.
Finally, each player had to pick his top fifteen from his era and Roscommon’s Pat Lindsay selected six men who wore saffron and blue in his team selection.
Lindsay’s top 15 are; 1 Gay Sheerin (Ros ), 2 Harry Keegan (Ros ), 3 Seamus Quinn (Leitrim ), 4 Seamus McHugh (Gal ), 5 Johnny Hughes (Gal ), 6 TJ Gilmore (Gal ), 7 Danny Murray (Ros ), 8 Dermot Earley (Ros ), 9 Willie Joe Padden (Mayo ), 10 Mickey Martin (Leitrim ), 11 Jimmy Duggan (Gal ), 12 Micheal Kerins (Sligo ), 13 Tony McManus (Ros ), 14 Frank McGuigan (Tyrone ), 15 Mick Finneran (Ros ).