Dublin: The Chaos Years
by Neil Cotter (Penguin Ireland) Reviewer: Donal O’Donoghue “Tommy was a peculiar beast” How do you write about the Dublin senior football team, the greatest Gaelic football side of the modern era and arguably, the Greatest of All Time as they hunt down an unprecedented five-in-a-row in 2019? With the players locked down tighter than a drum by their management, Neil Cotter (with his debut book) has come up with the simple but somewhat ingenious idea of chronicling how Dublin’s senior footballers got to Mount Olympus. So he charts the barren years, talking with former players and management who seem happy to spill their guts and put the boot into former colleagues.
We have Keith Barr versus manager Tommy Carr (the bad blood is still there), the machine that was Vinnie Murphy and the evolution of current boss Jim Gavin, an All Ireland winner in 1995 who doesn’t escape unscathed from these pages. With its colloquial sub-title (‘How the Dubs Made a Mess of Things for So Long – and How they Turned it Around’) this book strives to make sense of it all and it features a colourful cast, among them the former Taoiseach and long-term Dubs fan, Bertie Ahern. What makes this a book for a readership beyond the Pale is that it’s not just for those looking to see what not to do, but also for the ordinary sports fan curious about what happens in sweaty dressing-rooms or off the ball or behind closed boardroom doors. Still passionate after all these years, Keith Barr slams his fist on the table as he recalls how Kildare beat Dublin in a replay in the 1998 championship, Carr still has nightmares about the Maurice Fitzgerald free kick that dumped them out of the 2001 All Ireland quarter-final and the final words go to Eamonn Heery, who played for a decade with Dublin but missed out on the Celtic cross in 1995. “Barrsy always said to me, ‘Heery, we won f*uck-all, but we had great craic.”