Book review – The Club by Christy O’Connor

I read The Club over the Christmas Holiday. The book is based an account of 12 months activity in the Clare GAA Club, St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield.

The Book appeals to me on several fronts: as a book about amateur team sports, as a book about the GAA, and, to a lesser extent, as a book about dealing with personal challenges.

I have played on lots of teams over the years – be that rugby, cricket or golf. I have captained a number of teams. I have also coached or mentored teams. And I have participated in club committees across a range of sports – committees all made up of members giving freely of their time. All of those experiences have included highs and lows, rewards and frustrations. Christy catches most of this in the book – power hungry committee members, frustrated coaches, family loyalties, passionate team talks, failed training sessions, elation after great wins, competing demands on people’s time, the beauty of the game itself.

On the GAA front he brings out a number of issues – pressures on finances, importance of youth structures, competing demands for dual players, competing demands from other sports for players, the physical element of the game of hurling, the impact of the County Championship on Club sides (often prepared and ready to go – only to have matches put back to accomodate County matches). There is also some flavour of the tensions between new and old within the organisation.

In terms of personal challenges he experiences tragedy in his own life – and in some respects turns to what he knows, sport, as an escape (or perhaps to buy himself time as he deals with it). You also get some insight into the demands that senior club and intercounty sport put on the players and their loved ones. I did not feel the book dealt effectively with the group dynamics within this group of players – in fact to some extent that seemed to be missing in this particular group in this particular season. Great emphasis was put on winning the championship in memory of a player who died suddenly. If anything the book demonstrates that this is not enough to pull a team together to to drive to winning a championship.

I think sports people in general will enjoy the read – and empathise with many of the events and outcomes. I would not limit recommending the book to GAA people – in fact I think most GAA people will be only too familiar with many of the challenges, the highs and the lows.

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