I try to read a lot. In between the toddler, an often 60-hour working weeks and completing the first year of a degree course, I  somehow squeezed in about fifty books last year, taking in a pretty broad array of genres and directions. Since I’ve found most books don’t age particularly badly (in fact, aside from Kindle, most of my books are second-hand charity shop buys anyway), I figured these are every bit as appealing as the day they came out. There are a couple here I feel like I’ve recommended to various people a dozen plus times already, so I thought I’d throw down the highlights in a post. 

There are not – at least not necessarily – books released in 2016. They’re just the best ones I happened to read and feel like shouting about. There’s already another huge heap waiting to explore this year. Reading recommendations – especially based on the below – very much appreciated!

ready_player_one_coverReady Player One by Ernest Cline (link)

Set in twin worlds – a grim ‘real world’ future and the huge escapist fantasy of a virtual reality computer game – Ready Player One creates those two environments beautifully, and then uses them to explore ideas of equality and power, travel and personal virtues. Based on an extreme version of ‘Easter eggs’ – hidden extras added to computer games, movies and albums for diehard fans to uncover – the main character is a minnow in a virtual world as dominated by those with economic muscle as the real one. When the creator of the virtual world dies, this triggers a kind of treasure hunt that sees players compete to solve riddles and win ultimate control. The computer game aspect aside, it’s a slightly tired plot, but one delivered so well and through such nicely-rounded, anxiety-riddled characters that any predictable edge to the story doesn’t matter, especially when every key task on the journey is taxing and unpredictable. I’ve found a lot of these more conceptual books are more interesting in theory than in reality. This was a spectacular exception.

Dublin GAA logo

This article is part of a series of feature interviews prepared for the Dublin Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association ahead of their All Ireland 2016 final with Cork.

Last year, Deirdre Murphy stepped away from the Dublin senior football team to head to Chicago on a J1, returning just in time to watch her teammates in the county side lose out 0-12 to 0-10 in the final against an all-conquering Cork.

It’s another Croke Park experience that has long formed part of Murphy’s footballing motivation, though, a moment that’s stuck with her throughout her playing career. As captain of Dublin’s All Ireland-winning under-16 side in 2010, Murphy and her side were invited to parade their trophy around the pitch at HQ ahead of the senior final.

After soaking up the applause, Murphy took her seat to watch Dublin win their first (and to date, their only) All Ireland ladies’ football title, hammering Tyrone 3-16 to 0-9 to end five years of Cork dominance. “I remember watching Denise Masterson lift the All Ireland trophy, and thinking ‘that’s going to be my one day,” Murphy said of the day.

Four years later, Murphy was to start on the bench as Dublin built a substantial lead over Cork in the senior final, only to throw it away in the dying stages. This year, having established herself as a starter following her return from that summer J1 in 2015, Murphy’s experience has become strangely cyclical: like Masterson’s team six years ago, she’s looking to help prevent the successive All Ireland wins of a dominant Cork side from extending to six.

Unsurprisingly, football has infiltrated every aspect of Murphy’s life over recent years. “Training is tough,” she admits. “But there are several players from that under-16 side still around me. I don’t think I’d have made it to where I am today if I didn’t have friends from St Brigid’s and from the age-group teams around me. Leah Caffrey, Siobhan Woods, Molly Lamb and Ciara Trant have moved up with me to the senior squad. When you’re out there pushing through the harder moments of training you need your friends around you. It makes all the difference.”

Murphy – a student who returned to college at DCU just a two weeks before the All Ireland final – also reports the sport having a strong impact on the rest of her life. “It helps with structure,” she explains. “It helps me have discipline in all aspects of life. When I’m stressed, the training is a great release, too. It’s something that’s always been there for me, something I can rely on.”

“My dad was always involved growing up,” she adds. “I’ve been around Dublin development squads since the under-11s. I think they’re really important, as they give lots of players a chance. It can be hard to be seen, and it also gives the players a chance to see what’s there for them, the professionalism there is there. The senior managers always showed an interest in the development squads. It’s very much ‘Team Dublin.’ It needs to be that kind of stepping stone”

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At the turn of the year, Dublin women’s football manager Greg McGonigle commented on the state of women’s football. “There are great footballing teams around,” he said, simply, but was quick to zone in on the reason that’s so apparent: a difference in rules. “We’re at a stage where it’s different to the men with […]


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