Up for the match in every way

Up for the match in every way
My Sporting Life

By Jimmy Deenihan (Red Hen Publishing, €20 / £16.50)

There is a unique link between politics and sport in Ireland. This is nowhere more apparent than in this autobiography by Jimmy Deenihan. Appropriately entitled ‘My Sporting Life’, it charts his successful transition from the playing fields to Leinster House and eventually ministerial office.

Born in Finuge, near Listowel, in 1952, Jimmy attended St Michael’s College, after which he trained as a physical education teacher. Thereafter, he was on the staff of Tarbert Comprehensive School.

Jimmy credits his mother with initiating his sporting life when, in 1957, she returned from Puck Fair, Killorglin, with a brown rubber ball for her son.

From an early age he was involved with local teams and describes the matches in which he played. Along the way he comments on the context in which Gaelic clubs and games developed, especially his own home club at Finuge.

Jimmy was a member of the remarkably successful Kerry football teams of the 1970s and 1980s, five of whom won no fewer than eight senior All-Ireland medals.

His assessment of his teammates will be greatly appreciated by Gaelic football aficionados. He describes team discipline, training methods, drills, injury treatment and other aspects of team management.

Of particular interest is the contrast he draws between the coaching of Dr Eamon O’Sullivan and Mick O’Dwyer, both of whom were eminently successful in their own time.

Like all top achievers, Jimmy experienced losing as well as winning. His most poignant disappointment was Kerry’s failure to win five All-Ireland titles in a row: ”There was a chilling silence and a numbing sense of disbelief in the dressing room afterwards.”

Garret Fitzgerald invited Jimmy to stand for Fine Gael in north Kerry after hearing his speech on accepting the Sam Maguire Cup in September 1981. Jimmy did not disappoint.

Elected in 1987, he won five subsequent elections and over the years was prominent in the Dáil, becoming a Minister of State in 1997 and Minister for Art, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs in 2011.

Politics brought him into contact with an extraordinary wide range of persons at home and abroad. Many of these, including prominent members of Kerry’s footballing fraternity, are pictured in this lavishly illustrated book.

Minister Jimmy Deenihan continues to be an outstanding representative of his constituents in north Kerry. Over many years he has been to the fore in inspiring and assisting every worthwhile project in the area: the proceeds of this fascinating book will go to the Lartigue Railway Museum.