Clara native PJ Cunningham.

Offaly stories feature in Clara author's new GAA book

A new GAA book compiled by Offaly journalist and author PJ Cunningham includes five contributions with strong connections to the county.

Grassroots: The Second Half is described as a gold mine of GAA tales spanning over 150 years, and follows the publication of a successful first volume last year.

It includes tales which reflect the Offaly GAA kaleidoscope with a gripping historical story by Aidan Clancy, who recalls how his father Matt, a native of The Island, avoided a gunman sent to shoot him after a match played during the time of the Civil War.

There is an interesting sequel when the would-be assassin met him in Croke Park sometime later, as both were cheering on Offaly against Cork in the All-Ireland junior final.

Edenderry publican Mary O’Connor relates a story about another day when a different Seamus Darby goal brought home the bragging rights, while Aidan Grennan’s ‘Hat Man’ story provides a revealing tale with a plot twist.

"The GAA and I were astounded by the response to the first edition," said the book's editor PJ Cunningham, a Clara native who collaborated with Croke Park on both publications.

"This collection is slightly different to the first in that as well as having the usual stories from the deep roots of rural society, there are also numerous stories where people from other sports and walks of life talk of their GAA experiences," he said.

The cover of the new book.

Former Irish rugby international Ollie Campbell, ex-snooker world champion Ken Doherty, and Vienna-based opera singer Tom Birch, all explain how they became big fans of Gaelic games.

"Virtually no subject escapes in the 400 pages, with tales of a parish priest's curse, referees officiating with watches which didn’t work to players taking 'leaks' on the field of play," said Cunningham.

"All human life is in there whether it is going to and from matches or in one case, the story where a Kilkenny fan got locked into a well-known Dublin pub while his team won the All Ireland hurling final a mile away in Croke Park.

"This book provides snapshots into the history of the GAA, recounted by the people at the heart of the action, whether those stories are happy or sad, sensational or ordinary."

GAA President Larry McCarthy said the book highlighted "the value of the folklore and stories" built up around gaelic games.

"What these two Grassroots books do is ensure they become available to a wider audience as most, if not all, of these stories are being published for the first time," he said.

Grassroots: The Second Half, priced at €19.99, is available now nationwide and from: