Saturday 18 November 2017

What did I think of that, Kieran? It's an average read

Book review - Alan Aherne

What Do You Think Of That?
What Do You Think Of That?

The post All-Ireland final riposte Kerry footballer Kieran Donaghy delivered to one of his chief critics, Joe Brolly, after their 2014 victory against Donegal is the sub-heading of his autobiography: 'What Do You Think Of That?'

What answer would I give if the big man asked me the same question after reading his life story up to this point?

Well, Kieran, it was average at best, nothing to get too excited about or worked up over, just another run of the mill insight into the drive that turns some sportsmen into All-Ireland winners.

I'm starting to think that perhaps I expect too much from this type of book. Or maybe I've overdosed on autobiographies of G.A.A. players given that this was the third I read in successive weeks.

First came Cathal McCarron with his gambling addiction and general air of aggression and unpleasantness that left me completely cold.

Next was hurler Ken McGrath whose book sought a different angle in the form of his health difficulties since his retirement. One friend summed up that book in just one word after I had filled this column with almost 600 on the same topic last week: 'inoffensive'.

And then we come to Mr. Donaghy. He is the product of a broken home, and the death of his father back in his native Tyrone at the young age of 59 is explored in some detail.

It wasn't a natural path that the versatile Tralee man took in getting to the top.

He wasn't looked upon as a star in the making before his teens, and indeed he only discovered a real passion for football after a series of setbacks when he got involved with the third team in Austin Stacks during his mid-teens.

Up to that point basketball had been his number one sport, and he continued to play intermittently at a high level with Tralee Tigers as his football career gradually took hold.

Donaghy's dyslexia is explained near the end of the book, and he deserves credit for putting his thoughts on paper in the circumstances.

It undoubtedly held him back in his earlier years, as he failed Maths twice and therefore didn't pass the Leaving until the age of 23 when a 'D' grade finally pushed him over the line.

However, he needed further qualifications to progress his career in the bank, but he left after eight years because the exams involved were simply too great an obstacle to overcome.

Donaghy also deals forcefully with the rumours that he had an affair which led to a pregnancy, dismissing them as utter rubbish.

He is very happy in his personal life, with his wife, Hilary, and daughter, Lola Rose, filling him with joy.

He is also very close to his mother, brother and sister, but the death of his beloved grandmother in 2015 naturally hit him hard as she played such a major role in his upbringing after his parents split up.

The book is written by Kieran Shannon and I'm not a fan of his style, particularly his dislike for using the past tense.

For example, rather than writing 'he scored a goal', his preference is for 'he would score a goal' or 'he'd score a goal'.

It makes this book a difficult read in my view, but I've come to the conclusion that autobiographies of G.A.A. players have reached saturation point one way or the other.

Quantity is never an adequate substitute for quality, and this offering shouldn't hold much interest for readers outside Kerry.

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