Sports Books of 2016: Cycling along the Iron Curtain, the man behind Conor McGregor and football's modern delights

We pick 14 of the best books to delve into over the Festive period

BY Newstalk 16:31 Thursday 29 December 2016, 16:31 29 Dec 2016

It's a well-worn theme of 2016 that the year just passed has thrown up some of the most unlikely results in sport.

Be it Connacht in the Guinness PRO12 championship, Iceland in the European Championships this summer or, of course, Leicester City in the Premier League.

And while we've enjoyed the action on the field, there's a lot to be said for those compiling some of the stories off of it. Be it football, rugby, MMA or cycling, there have been some incredible stories shared and tales told this year. 

Here are just some of the best books from the year in sport.

No Nonsense: The Autobiography

Author: Joey Barton, Michael Calvin

Synopsis: No Nonsense is a the autobiography of one of the most fascinating sporting figures British football. Michael Calvin helps tell the story of Joey Barton from his time in the game and the attention drawn from incidents off the pitch. Calvin spoke to Team 33 earlier this year, an interview which you can listen to right here.

Goodreads Rating: 3.66/5

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Author: William Finnegan

Synopsis: William Finnegan’s immersive memoir of a life spent travelling the world chasing waves through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa, Peru and beyond. Finnegan explores the relationships he built with friends during his time on the waves and how he gradually mastered the art of surfing.

Goodreads Rating: 4.15/5

For the Glory: The Life of Eric Liddell

Author: Duncan Hamilton

Synopsis: The inspiring story of Olympic champion Eric Liddell, hero of Chariots of Fire, from his successes in the Games to his missionary work in China and then to his brave years in a Japanese work camp during WWII.

Goodreads Rating: 4.44/5

Forever Young: The Story of Adrian Doherty, Football’s Lost Genius 

Author: Oliver Kay

Synopsis: The story of Manchester United’s forgotten man. Adrian Doherty was one of United’s shining lights during the 1990s and was ranked alongside Ryan Giggs as one of the next best footballers of his generation. Football, however, was not his passion and author Oliver Kay constructs the story of a misunderstood young man plying his trade at the world’s biggest football club.

Oliver Kay spoke to Off The Ball earlier this year.

Goodreads Rating: 4.38/5

The Battle - Paul O’Connell 

Author: Paul O’Connell, Alan English

Synopsis: Paul O’Connell is one of the most recognisable players in Irish sporting culture and will remain a towering figure in Irish rugby. The Munster man’s career ended in bitter disappointment following victory over France in the 2015 World Cup. O’Connell shares stories about his early years in with the province, breaking onto the international scene and what it was like to captain his country to their first ever Six Nations defence.

Paul O'Connell spoke about his book to Off The Ball earlier this year.

Goodreads Rating: 4.04/5


Author: Rory Smith

Synopsis: Mister tracks the spread of football around the globe and the men who brought the sport to different corners of the world. Some were forced to leave by necessity, others by choice, but all made their own unique mark on the global game.

Goodreads Rating: 3.86/5

Win or Learn: MMA, Conor McGregor and Me: A Trainer's Journey

Author: John Kavanagh, Paul Dollery

Synopsis: John Kavanagh is often referred to as the Godfather of Irish MMA and is best known as the outspoken coach of UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor. The story follows his journey through the sport, his relationship with the UFC’s biggest star and gives a behind the scenes look at currently Irish sport’s most popular figure.

Goodreads Rating: 4.31/5


Walking Tall: The Autobiography of a World Champion and Olympic Medallist

Author: Rob Heffernan

Synopsis: Heffernan became Ireland’s first athlete to compete in five Olympic Games this year and was also upgraded to bronze this year after finishing fourth in fourth in the men's 50 kilometre walk in London. One of Ireland’s most dedicated competitors and loyal servants, Heffernan shares his battles with injury, depression and abject poverty on his way to the top.

Goodreads Rating: N/A

Kieran Donaghy: What Do You Think Of That?: My Autobiography

Author: Kieran Donaghy, Kieran Shannon

Synopsis: Few names a more synonymous with Kerry GAA than Kieran Donaghy. The forward has been a faithful servant of the club and has enjoyed a wonderfully successful career in the green and gold of Kerry, winning four All-Ireland titles, eight Munster titles and two All-Star awards. The book explores his journey over the last two decades, his fractious relationship with his father and injury interrupted later years of his football career.

Kieran Donaghy spoke to Off The Ball earlier this year.

Goodreads Rating: N/A

Ken McGrath: Hand on Heart

Author: Ken McGrath

Synopsis: Hurling legend Ken McGrath shares his inspiring and at times harrowing story in his book Hand on Heart. Detailing his time with the Waterford hurling panel, the three time All-Star winner explains what went behind restoring the team to one of the best in the country, details health problems which could have cost him his life and the relationship he developed with the people of Waterford.

Ken McGrath spoke to Off The Ball about his new book earlier this year.

Goodreads Rating: 3.5/5


Author: Abby Wambach

Synopsis: The highest goal scorer - male or female - in the history of US soccer, Abby Wambach has had led a complicated life. Forward follows her complicated life and her journey to find herself, even when she finds herself in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Goodreads Rating: 3.98/5

Angels with Dirty Faces

Author: Jonathan Wilson

Synopsis: The author of Inverting the Pyramid: A history of Football Tactics, Jonathan Wilson returns with his latest book which gives in stunning detail the history of Argentinian football. From Maradona to Messi, the book explores the direction of Argentinian football in five detailed phases.

Goodreads Rating: 4.34/5

Saturday 3pm: 50 Eternal Delights of Modern Football 

Author: Daniel Gray

Synopsis: Modern football in its current form goes some way to alienating a number of fans. Astronomical wages and transfer fees, super rich clubs and players seemingly out of touch with the general public, Gray's book is a collection of prose, poetry and observations that connect with the reader and what is so precious about the global game.

Daniel Gray spoke to Team 33 about his book earlier this year.

Goodreads Rating: 4.67/5

The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold: Adventures Along the Iron Curtain Trail

Author: Tim Moore

Synopsis: Tim Moore tackles the 9,000km route of the old Iron Curtain on a tiny-wheeled, two-geared East German shopping bike. The three month long trip sees him encounter all manner of characters, tackle some of the most challenging conditions on earth and learn lessons on the road.

Goodreads Rating: 4.18/5

Out of Control: How My Addiction Almost Killed Me

Author: Cathal McCarron, Christy O'Connor

Synopsis: The story of Tyrone corner back and his battle with gambling addiction. At times a difficult read, McCarron lays bare his struggle with addiction. He spoke to Off The Ball this year in one of the show's most riveting interviews of the year.

Goodreads Rating: 3.86/5


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