Local author hits the back of the net with new Irish football book

There is no denying that Dundalk is indeed a football town. Whether it’s the many people who flock to Oriel Park every week, people involved with local Dundalk and District League or NEFL teams, or just the many good-game enthusiasts in general.

If you’re into the sport, you’re bound to find plenty of interesting conversations, not to mention top footballers across the region and beyond.

One of those sports enthusiasts who took his football obsession even further is local freelance journalist Barry Landy. Not only happy to watch local football or even the many ups and downs of the Premier League, he wanted to take his gaze further.

With that interest came the Emerald Exiles page, a website he first developed as a simple college project that involved him keeping an eye on Irish players based beyond the confines of the English leagues or the Irish League.

He had no idea at the time that this “hobby” would prove to be extremely popular, so much so that the social media page has now become a book. This opportunity arose by chance when a relative of the publisher spotted an untapped idea for a big seller.

“I had a good following on social media, people seemed to like what I was doing and I published a few things in national newspapers,” recalls the Ardee native as he spoke of how the book was born.

“One of the people who worked for New Island Books (the publisher), his partner was a huge football fan. They were at home one day discussing book ideas and remembered my Twitter account which he was following online.

“He thought it would be a great idea for a book so the publisher found me online, emailed me, and just asked me if I would be interested in writing the book.”

The book delves into over 100 years of Irish football history, telling stories of Robbie Keane and his escapades to the United States, as well as the story of Liam Brady who was one of Italy’s biggest stars. .

It also shines a light on some of the forgotten names that graced the world stage, which fellow players have likely overlooked like Caleb Folan and Ronnie O’Brien who brought their talents overseas without most of us knowing that. ‘they were gone.

Yet when asked if there were any stories that surprised him while researching the book, Landy recalled the career of Jack Kirwan, a Wicklow native who won an All-Ireland with Dublin before. to become the first manager of the Dutch giants Ajax in 1911.

“He had played for Chelsea, for Tottenham, had won an FA Cup. He was a man with extensive experience in English football and they wanted him to come and teach the Dutch how to play football, which is extraordinary now when you think about the view of Dutch football today in the world.

“At this point there was no distinction between English and Irish, they would have seen him as English by then. Football originated in Great Britain, England and Scotland. It was the English coaches and the Scottish coaches that they wanted to bring the game to the continent.

“Jack Kirwan’s story is one that I personally was not aware of and I know most Irish people were not either and they tend to be very surprised when they hear about it, it is is an incredible achievement. “

It is not only men’s football that he shines a light on, but also the many women who have gone abroad in search of professional footballing careers.

In particular, Landy was keen to help improve Anne O’Brien’s legacy. A woman considered by many to be one of the greatest, male or female, to have donned the Irish jersey over the years, she has been overlooked by many due to her largely accomplished exploits on the continent.

“She is one of the greatest Irish sportswomen of all time, but only won four caps for her country as she played her entire professional career in France and Italy in the 70s, 80s and 90s. C This was a time when the FAI weren’t putting money or resources into women’s football and that basically meant they weren’t bringing it back. “

“If she was in the age of television and social media, especially the past two years that women’s football has exploded, she would be an absolute world superstar, but that was just another era and she missed it that.”

In a country fascinated by soccer, the freelance writer offers potential readers the chance to learn what it’s like to play soccer all over the world and from different angles. He hopes this is the perfect gift for any big sports fan.

“There are senior male internationals, senior female internationals, former Irish League players. Players from 100 years ago, players today, even fellow foreigners after playing in England’s lower leagues, all kinds of different perspectives.

“The book is almost like a travel book, a book on emigration, obviously on football, it touches on a lot of different things. There’s Liam Brady and Robbie Keane, people like that who were all familiar with but also lots of names that you might not know, names that you forgot.

“There is something for every demographic. The longtime football fan, a new fan. Young or old, passionate about male or female football. There really is something for everyone.

Emerald Exiles: How the Irish Made Their Mark in World Football is available at bookstores nationwide.

Lola R. McClure