A plethora of GAA books have hit the stands ahead of the Christmas rush, with the respective authors busying themselves with promotional work on television and radio as well as the printed word.
For the scribes in question, those days and nights of ‘plugging’ their work are practically as hectic as the days leading to their anxious publisher’s deadline.
But it goes with the territory, something that ‘Working On A Dream’ author Damian Lawlor was well aware of heading into the process.
His year on the road with the Waterford senior footballers does not have a headline act like Brian Cody or Mickey Harte, or any socially seismic Donal Óg-type revelations.
But what the Sunday Independent writer’s tome does have, in spades, are characters, none greater than John ‘Jackson’ Kiely, whose sterling work as Waterford manager surely merited a promotion winning campaign.
Sadly, the most quotable manager in Gaelic games (in that he’s never uttered a bland word) won’t get the chance to do so next year since the County Board recently opted for a fresh face in former Tipp boss John Owens.
Damian first met John a decade ago and from the off they clicked, so much so that Kiely had no problem with the North Tipperary man spending the 2009 campaign as a de facto member of the Deise group.
“I couldn’t get the idea of the book out of my head for the last two years,” said Damian, who previously authored the critically acclaimed ‘I Walked The Line: the Liam Dunne story’.
“So I contacted John, whom I’d always got on well with and he agreed to let me in. The boys accepted me very quickly and I got to know and respect them and that was it really; ‘twas only a matter of acting on that idea I’d had.
“And that it culminated in the book and the great turn-out at the launch night at the Park Hotel a few weeks back was enormously satisfying.”
A journalist entering the domain of a dressing room, as previously alluded to, would be scarcely countenanced by managers at the highest grade given their misplaced sense of paranoia.
In fact, it was something Damian commented upon when meeting this reporter at a Waterford/Leitrim fixture at Fraher Field last March when the travelling support outnumbered the Deise’s following by almost 10 to one.
“I grew up in dressing rooms, playing and hanging around and given my Dad’s involvement with teams in Tipperary, a fair share of my Sundays growing up were spent in dressing rooms.
“For the past few years, focusing on my job and not being used to hanging in and around them, I was definitely a bit paranoid. Over the first few games, I made myself barely visible, hanging outside the door and just before the lads will give their speech, I’d skulk in.
“I had done a feature on Waterford footballers two, three years beforehand so quite a few of the lads knew me and they knew I wasn’t there to poke fun.
“But in the early days, thanks to the backroom team and the subs during the McGrath Cup, I was made to feel welcome very quickly and I felt like part of the furniture after three weeks.”
And what of John Kiely? “John never even asked me to check on the book during the year, which I found extraordinary; he had a fair level of trust there for me and I couldn’t let him down on that either.
“I had about seven or eight main characters from the team and they were so co-operative, so willing to share their stories and their struggles and not once did I get turned down when I approached any of them. Overall, the co-operation I got from everybody was excellent. Just excellent.”
Excellent is a word one readily associates with this book, which reflects the reality for the vast majority of footballers and hurlers who’ll never receive big endorsements or hero worship.
Waterford’s 2009 campaign ended in defeat to Meath in the qualifiers, by which time Damian Lawlor had developed a strong emotional bond with his subjects.
“About an hour after the final whistle I trooped silently out of the dressing room, disconsolate that my journey was finally over,” he writes in the epilogue.
“There was a nice touch just as I made my exit – John Phelan spotted me slipping away and quietly insisted that I receive a jersey before I left. Class. That shirt means more to me than they could imagine.”
This book is to Gaelic football what Eamon Dunphy’s ‘Only A Game?’ is to soccer – a seminal work which anyone remotely interested in Irish sport owes it to themselves to read. Class.
‘Working On A Dream’ is published by Mentor and is priced €16.99