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Saturday 21 September 2019

Football life at the highest level seen through the lens

Great Moments In Gaelic Football
Great Moments In Gaelic Football

Book review - Alan Aherne

Ray McManus and members of his team are familiar faces at all major sporting events around the country and further afield.

The genial Dubliner set up the Sportsfile agency in the 1980s as a means of combining two of the loves of his life, family aside: photography and sport.

His business expanded from humble beginnings to such an extent that many of Ray's award-winning staff numbers are now household names and instantly recognised all over the country.

For example, scarcely a big match goes by in Wexford Park without Matt Browne of Sportsfile being there to record the action.

During the mid-nineties another string was added to the agency's bow when Ray came up with the bright idea of publishing a photographic record of the Gaelic games year for the Christmas market.

As a result, 'A Season Of Sundays' was born and the series is still going strong, with the attractive tome adorning many coffee tables throughout the land.

It's the type of book that you mightn't necessarily fork out almost €30 for yourself, but it's a very nice present to receive all the same.

And now there's an additional publication to consider for this festive season as the O'Brien Press and Sportsfile have teamed up to bring out 'Great Moments In Gaelic Football'.

This hardback book runs to just over 200 pages and contains many of the iconic images in the game from 1960 up to this year's championship campaign.

While McManus only got his business up and running in the 1980s, he purchased the Connolly Collection some time ago and this explains the inclusion of so many photographs from the previous two decades.

The late Jim Connolly was one of the leading sports photographers of his generation and specialised in G.A.A., and by forking out for his library of images it gave Ray access to a wonderful window to the past.

All of the photographs up to and including 1979 were taken by Connolly and he is credited in the captions, although I did feel an explanation of how McManus came into their possession was warranted. Indeed, it's a glaring omission in my opinion, but that certainly doesn't take from the overall quality of the production.

They say that a picture tells a thousand words and, while that may come as a source of frustration to those of us trying to write for a living, it's hard to argue with the claim at the same time.

The tone is set for this book from the black and white front cover where Dublin defenders Rory O'Carroll and Philly McMahon are snapped in a joyous embrace seconds after the final whistle was blown in the 2015 All-Ireland Senior football championship final and their victory against Kerry was secured.

The absence of colour is perhaps a nod to the historical aspect of the book, alerting potential buyers to the difference between this and 'A Season Of Sundays' which always focuses entirely on the calendar year from January onwards.

The poor quality of G.A.A. autobiographies in 2016 has highlighted the reality that this particular genre is fading fast, and it's not worth parting with your hard-earned cash to read about the exploits of past or present players.

This book represents something different, and if you appreciate photography of the highest quality then it's well worth a look.

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

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