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Thu 31-Dec-2009 21:57
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Henry Martin’s book: every county deserves one
Does it make it any easier if you analyse and try to understand the cause of an unlimited heartbreak, wonders An Fear Rua...
AFR knows more than one person whose heart was broken but who never found out the cause. One minute you think things are going along nicely, meeting the parents, making plans for a holiday away together or filling out mortgage application forms. Next minute, it’s all broken off mysteriously. No explanation given. Sometimes, the jilted one seems to bounce back but the heartbreak lingers, always, like a dull pain. The heartbreak can last for decades, as it has in the case of Limerick hurling.
If knowing the reason for the heartbreak helps people in any way, then Henry Martin has done a signal service to Limerick hurling fans. In four hundred pages of this memorable and magisterial work, he covers the heartbreak – but also the achievements – of a proud hurling county.
In September 1940 Limerick emerged from Croke Park as All-Ireland champions for the third time in six years, beating Kilkenny to secure a sixth title. The Limerick minor team also won that day. The future appeared bright, laden with silverware. Almost seventy years later and the McCarthy Cup has returned to Limerick just once, in 1973.
This ‘warts and all’ story of Limerick hurling is an absorbing chronicle, based on ‘no-holds-barred’ interviews with over a hundred passionate players, dedicated mentors and officials who witnessed everything firsthand and have a story to tell. Many give their account for the first time, providing a unique perspective on victories, defeats, controversies, rows, and hard luck stories of what went wrong and where.
The interviewees include stars – shooting and otherwise - in the Limerick firmament like Richie Bennis, Éamonn Cregan, Tom Ryan, Gary Kirby and Ciarán Carey. Players from other counties also contribute, such as Eddie Keher, Jimmy Barry Murphy, Padjoe Whelehan and Babs Keating.
answers questions about almost every Limerick hurling issue of the past seventy years, including the alleged drinking culture, politics and propaganda.
The words of players past and present and officials are woven together with a fine collection of old and new photographs. Martin uses a fantastic,exhilarating technique of letting the story tellers tell their own tales, in their own words, without imposing himself on the narrative. Yet, at every critical point of the book, he provides expert and insightful analysis, as well as context, for the participants’ comments. Truly, then, this book is the authentic voice of Limerick hurling.
Every county should have a book as good as this dedicated to its sporting history. Fans in other counties will envy Limerick. Like Cody and Kilkenny on the hurling field itself, Henry Martin has set a new bar for other writers and GAA books to aspire to. Out with the stultifyingly boring compilations of results, team lists and committee minutes. Away with the ‘ghosted’ biographies based on a few spins by a journalist down to the subject’s home county, augmented by a perusal of newspaper clippings.
is the benchmark against which all future GAA books will be measured. If there is a God in heaven at all, and we think there is and that he or she may be a hurling fan, this book will scoop whatever awards are going this year for the best book on sports. It’s that good.
This is not just a book that will appeal only to Limerick folk or to hurling people. It is a book for all counties and for fans of every sport. Because long years of heartbreak are not unique to Limerick hurling but will resonate in many a diverse breast.
Limerick hurling fans – without disrespect to Henry – will be hoping that the book's title, if not its content, will soon be rendered obsolete. The book should inspire Limerick hurlers and hurling people to make sure this happens. Whenever it happens, rest assured that no one will chronicle and analyse it better than the man from Galbally, Henry Martin...
played underage with Galbally in Limerick in the 1980s and still plays club football. He also hurled for Garryspillane when the hurling in Galbally was disbanded, winning a county senior hurling medal in 2005. He has been a GAA referee since 2002. A graduate of the University of Limerick and primary school teacher, he wrote a weekly GAA column in the Limerick Leader and random snippets for other publications. He now writes for Hurling World and
An Fear Rua – The GAA Unplugged!
In September 1940 Limerick emerged from Croke Park as All-Ireland champions for the third time in six years, beating Kilkenny to secure a sixth title. The Limerick minor team also won that day...
ISBN: 978-1-84889-014-5 • Paperback • 234 x 156 mm • 408 pp • b&w photos
Signed copies of the book can be ordered directly from the author for €23 incl P&P in the Republic of Ireland. Payment may be made through Paypal to his email address
The book may also be ordered online from
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