Tuesday 21 November 2017

Lenny's life story a worthy winner of sports award

Alan Aherne

Dub Sub Confidential
Dub Sub Confidential

I was thoroughly engrossed in 'Dub Sub Confidential - A Goalkeeper's Life with - and without - the Dubs' in the middle of last week when I briefly came up for air.

And as I checked what was happening in the real world via Twitter, I learned that the little gem I was finding so hard to put down had been selected as the Setanta sports book of the year.

'Proper order' I thought to myself before settling down to read the next chapter, and I didn't finish until the last page was turned.

I've read the vast majority of books about the lives of G.A.A. players, and so many of them are utterly underwhelming. Indeed, I've often finished such an offering and wondered, 'why in the name of God did he think his life story was worth a 200-plus page book?'.

'Dub Sub Confidential' is unlike anything I have read before from the G.A.A. world, and in that regard it has completely broken the mould.

The author - and yes, he wrote it himself without the need for a ghost writer - is John Leonard, and to state he has lived an eventful life so far is putting it mildly.

His name will be unfamiliar to most readers, unless you're a complete G.A.A. anorak or a true blue Dubs fan who doesn't miss a game from the start of the O'Byrne Cup until the end of the championship campaign.

He was substitute goalkeeper to Stephen Cluxton for the 2006 and 2007 Leinster championship successes under Paul 'Pillar' Caffrey, and went down the pecking order to third choice for 2008 before being deemed surplus to requirements when Pat Gilroy took over as manager for 2009.

He barely got a look-in due to Cluxton's class and, while he has huge admiration for the number one on and off the field, he makes no bones about it: he hoped and prayed the king of the netminders would either get suspended or injured to give him a chance.

Neither of these possibilities saw the light of day even though Leonard put in a serious shift in training and was itching for a chance. He likens it to spending a long time wining and dining the woman of your dreams but never getting the chance to take her home.

However, the story of Leonard's period with the Dubs is only one, albeit significant, part of a book that pushes the boundaries of sports writing in this country.

The author was a victim of paedophile priest Fr. Ivan Payne when he served as an altar boy, and this harrowing experience explains a great deal of what followed in his life.

Drink and drugs were his emotional crutches and he indulged in both to extremes, while a string of casual sexual encounters are also outlined as we read of his many escapades down through the years in Australia, Greece and India.

At the back of it all, Leonard's love for his parents, brother and three younger sisters shines through. He was particularly devoted to his father, an MS sufferer who was confined to a wheelchair but still managed to be a fixture on the sideline during his son's formative years.

Sadly he died shortly before Leonard made the Dublin Senior panel, an achievement that would have made him immensely proud.

I won't spoil this review by divulging any more; but if you plan to read just one sports book this Christmas, make sure this is it.

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

Wexford People

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