What is a good excuse for not updating a blog for the best part of nine months?
If there is such a thing as a good excuse, I may just have one!
I have been kept very busy over the past few months writing a book! Well, to be exact, I have co-authored a book…
It won’t come as much of a shocker that my first book is about rugby… But it is very much so a rugby book with a difference…
I am in excellent company in Six Nations, Two Stories as my co-author is the esteemed Peter O’Reilly of The Sunday Times. It is a huge honour for me to share the book with Peter as he is a writer, I would have really admired and enjoyed reading growing up.
It was also very special to be working with The O’Brien Press because as a teenager, one of their young adult titles Sisters, No Way! by Siobhan Parkinson was one of my very favourite books and I read it and re re-read it, over, and over and over… So, to work with a publisher whose books you grew up reading is also a huge honour.
So, what is Six Nations, Two Stories about?
I would hope title helps to somewhat explain… Six Nations, Two Stories takes the reader back on the journey through Ireland’s TWO triumphant RBS 6 Nations campaigns of 2015… Both our men and women were crowned as the best in the northern hemisphere and Six Nations, Two Stories EQUALLY tells both stories.
Having both the men and the women’s journeys share a book but equally is what makes this what I hope is a very special project… Peter told the men’s story and I took the reader on the women’s journey…
As well as Six Nations, Two Stories chronicling the two ultimately victorious campaigns, it also tells two contrasting stories of rugby in Ireland today. With the men we follow the campaign of a professional side. Where as with the women, we are brought into a totally different world, that of the amateur athlete.
For my half of the project, I decided to tell each chapter, which represented a different match through the eyes of a different player or coach. I conducted in-depth interviews with player including the captain Niamh Briggs, out half Nora Stapleton, prop Ailis Egan, hooker Gillian Bourke, back row Paula Fitzpatrick wing Hannah Tyrrell and head coach Tom Tierney.
What blew me away was just how generous the girls and Tom were, not just with their time but also with how giving they were of themselves in the interviews. Their honesty around all sorts of issues on and off the field was terrific for me as a writer but from a human point of view, hearing them tell their stories was inspirational.
I was at a point in my writing where, I was starting to worry that there was not a space for a sports features writer such as myself in the current media landscape in Ireland. I doubted if I could ever make a real living from sports writing. It wasn’t that my writing wasn’t good enough, it was just that in the age of click bait and virals and how celebrity sells, how someone like me could make a real career from sports writing? I had freelance work I enjoyed but it wasn’t a full career…
As a result of these anxieties, I was in danger of losing my joie de vie for sports for writing… However, I will be forever grateful to Ireland’s women for sharing their stories with me as they helped me to rediscover why I wanted to be sports writer in the first place.
I had previously felt somewhat guilty for not focusing on the women’s game more prior to Ireland’s women’s 2013 Grand Slam. But I always believed to be the best sports journalist I could be I had to cover the pinnacle of rugby and that was the men’s professional game. There are such strong opinions around sport and gender; I don’t want this post to be about that…
As a sports writer, I was merely looking in at this team of amazing women as an outsider. As I researched my part of Six Nations, Two Stories, I always told the players that this was their story and I was merely telling it. I hope that I did a good job telling it.
I also hope that as many people as possible can be inspired by this amazing squad of players, as I was…
It was also wonderful working with The O’Brien Press. To be given the opportunity to be involved in a project such as this as a first time author means the world to me.
A huge thank you to Michael O’Brien, Ivan O’Brien, Peter O’Reilly, project manager Nicola Reddy, the brilliant Brendan O’Brien (editor extraordinaire) and PR and marketing guru Geraldine Feehily and a huge thank you to Ger Siggins also for his guidance.