Ross and his story in rugby spoiled by its scat­ter­gun style

Enniscorthy Guardian - - SPORT -

SOME­TIMES IN sport the tempo of a con­test is so high, right from the be­gin­ning, that com­peti­tors set­tle into a rhythm straight away. The fare on show is at­trac­tive, it is in­tense, spec­ta­tors are gripped from start to fin­ish. There are no thoughts of glanc­ing away.

Yet, maybe even more com­mon, is the set­tling in pe­riod. It’s the golfer that wants to get that first par on the board in a ma­jor cham­pi­onship, the ten­nis player who needs those first few ral­lies to find the sweet spot, or the darts player try­ing to hit that first dou­ble.

Team sports have this too. How of­ten do we see two big foot­ball teams ‘feel­ing each other out’, afraid to make a mis­take that might lead to an im­por­tant first goal. In rugby, Amer­i­can foot­ball and cricket too, teams look to get ‘set­tled in’.

It’s some­what apt, there­fore, that sports books can need a sim­i­lar pe­riod of ad­just­ment. Each book, or more ac­cu­rately, each au­thor/ ghost writer, has a style of their own. Some fit a cer­tain reader’s eye, some never sit well, but oth­ers just take a lit­tle ad­just­ment.

‘Dark Arts’, the lat­est Ir­ish rugby au­to­bi­og­ra­phy to hit the shelves, falls into that fi­nal camp, at best. The sub­ject is Mike Ross, the for­mer Leinster prop, a late-comer to the pro­fes­sional game but a main­stay in the na­tional team once he made his break­through.

This re­viewer came straight from the pre­vi­ous week’s book, Andy Lee

‘Fighter’, into this, and it was a dif­fi­cult tran­si­tion. For the first 30-odd pages, an avid reader of sports pub­li­ca­tions might want to chuck this against a wall and leave it crum­pled on the ground.

It’s not ex­actly a smooth read, es­pe­cially as the reader adapts to ghost writer Liam Hayes’ style. It’s clunky in a lot of places, doesn’t al­ways flow well, but the most dif­fi­cult as­pect to get over is the con­stant use of el­lip­sis.

Those three lit­tle dots (...), we might use them in text mes­sages, even in non-for­mal e-mails, but they are dif­fi­cult to swal­low, page af­ter page, in what is, by and large, a pretty se­ri­ous read about a hard-work­ing guy.

Some won’t last, maybe it works for the tar­get au­di­ence and it is a ge­nius move by Hayes, but this re­viewer strug­gles to be­lieve too many will have a pref­er­ence for it. If you can side­step and set­tle into the book, it does of­fer a redemp­tion of sorts.

It hap­pens af­ter an un­usu­ally long fore­word by Joe Sch­midt and a 30-odd page pro­logue.

The first chap­ter is where the reader gets drawn in, and maybe that doesn’t hap­pen if the con­tent isn’t heart­break­ingly painful.

Ross rarely fo­cuses on fam­ily af­ter that chap­ter, as the book quickly moves into his rugby life. The mod­est back­ground with U.C.C., with Cork Con., then with Har­lequins as Ross gets his first pro­fes­sional con­tract.

The big­gest sec­tion of ‘Dark Arts’ cov­ers his eight years with Leinster, and while de­tail­ing his time with the prov­ince he touches on his In­ter­na­tional ca­reer.

The de­tails seem a lit­tle sparse but Ross goes back to it in ‘Part 6 - Lock and Loaded’ to com­plete the pub­li­ca­tion.

For the rugby fan, this is an hon­est read by some­one who gave ev­ery­thing he had each and ev­ery time he walked on the pitch. There’s noth­ing ground­break­ing in there but it will add to your knowl­edge.

The story of the ca­reer of Mike Ross is dif­fer­ent from most other re­cent in­ter­na­tion­als but the book is prob­a­bly lack­ing a lit­tle in depth.

It’s scat­tered in ap­proach, and the style may be dif­fi­cult for some to look past.


Visit The Book Cen­tre on Wex­ford’s Main Street for the very best se­lec­tion of sports books.

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