Tuesday 17 July 2018

Flynn's memories of Meath shine a light on tough team

Blood Sweat Triumph & Tears
Blood Sweat Triumph & Tears

Book review - Alan Aherne

In terms of output, Roscommon-born author John Scally certainly hasn't been idle over the years.

A lecturer in Trinity College by day, he may only be a part-time writer but that hasn't stopped him from penning no fewer than 40 books since 1992.

Some of his earlier work will be particularly well known as he was responsible for the life stories of rugby icon Tony Ward, Clare hurling legend Ger Loughnane, and his dear friend and all-time football hero, the sadly departed Dermot Earley.

For his latest offering, Scally has delved into the G.A.A. archives and emerged with 'Blood Sweat Triumph & Tears', a broad range of tales from the Association that looks back on the exploits of some of the great players and teams in a bright and breezy manner.

It's a general mix of anecdotes which touches on many of the epic on-field clashes, not to mention the various controversies which have erupted down through the years.

If one was to be critical of the book, it would stem from the fact that several of its passages simply cover already well-worn ground.

Anyone with even a slight interest in the G.A.A. will have heard many of these stories numerous times before, so there is a natural inclination to skip some pages in the quest for fresh new material.

For example, those dreaded best quotes of commentator Micheál O Muircheartaigh appear near the end of the book.

I say dreaded because they have been printed and recounted so often now that several readers would make a good stab at repeating them verbatim.

You know the ones I'm talking about: the Fox and the Rabbitte in Croke Park, neither Fermanagh nor Fiji being hurling strongholds. Certainly seeing them here again does nothing to encourage potential buyers to part with their cash.

One of the strongest aspects of the book comes in an early chapter when he interviews former Meath attacker Bernard Flynn. He was a member of one of the favourite teams of my childhood, mixing skill and talent with a hard edge that ensured sparks would fly every time they met either of their two great rivals, Dublin and Cork, in the late 1980s.

While manager Seán Boylan is regarded as a gentlemanly figure in the world of G.A.A., Flynn notes that in the context of looking after a team he could be ruthless and knew how to get the very best out of every individual. If that meant rows were a regular occurrence at training games, then so be it.

Flynn paints a picture of a 'kill or be killed' scenario in those in-house matches, and recalls one evening when he burst legendary full-back Mick Lyons with a box.

Afterwards he showered with a shampoo bottle in one hand, while his other fist was clenched in readiness.

He was prepared for anything, but when Lyons approached it was only to put a friendly hand on his shoulder and tell Flynn that the team 'needed more of that' from him!

Anyone who remembers that tough Meath crew in championship action will enjoy those recollections, and Scally also chats with several other interesting figures from the G.A.A. world.

It's hard to exactly categorise the book though, as much of it is filler material that has been regurgitated from elsewhere.

It hops swiftly from one topic to the next, a hotchpotch of anecdotes with precious little that hasn't been published already.

Bearing that in mind, I wouldn't expect it to match the big sales Scally enjoyed with some of his previous offerings.

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