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Green Shoots

£20.00 (You save £3.00)

    ‘Green Shoots gives an affectionately perceptive view of Irish football on both sides of the border, its emotional core a moving evocation of Walker's ill-fated great uncle, Johnny Brown, a start of the middle of the last century.’ The Guardian, Sports Books of the Year

    ‘Michael Walker has followed up the wonderful Up There: The North East Football Boom and Bust with a charming, potted history of Irish soccer.’ Irish Examiner, Sports Books of the Year

    ‘A typically in-depth and diligently reported trip through Irish soccer on both sides of the border by one of the best in the business.’ — Irish Times, Sports Books of the Year

    ‘Walker's labour of love is a triumph of research and storytelling with its quirks easily forgivable. As an episodic work it is ideal for dipping in and out of and is that rarest of books one that is both rigorously authoritative and a great bog read.’ — When Saturday Comes

    ‘A metaphorical thread often runs through stories; in the case of this book, it starts with a lace, an actual lace. Walker succeeds in his aim in terrific style, weaving all those laces, ties, and threads together into a wonderful tapestry, a memorable series of snapshots.’ The Irish News 

    ‘Highly recommended, fascinating stories, brilliantly written.’ Andy Hunter, The Guardian

    ‘Excellently-researched [with] many connections and nuggets... the author selects key figures and events from the three centuries concerned to illustrate how the game developed here [and] its worldwide influence.’ Irish Daily Star 

    Hardback. Pages: 250. Size: 234x153mm. ISBN: 978-1-909245-50-1. Publication: 2017.

    More than a century after the Easter Rising, football in Ireland – like the country itself – remains divided. At the Euro 2016 finals in France, the country sent two teams – the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Both teams did well – each managed by a man called O’Neill, each resplendent in emerald green and backed by noisy, good natured supporters – but still they were as much divided as they were united.

    Green Shoots examines why, almost a century after one Irish Association became two, this is still the case. It traces the overlapping stories and individuals in both associations, beginning with the tale of the boy on the front cover, Johnny Brown, a Belfast Protestant who played for the Republic of Ireland in 1937, they year of the new Irish constitution. Brown is the author’s great uncle.

    This is only one strand of the broader story of Irish football. Green Shoots returns to the figures, often overlooked, who contributed so much to the growth of the game in Ireland and who made such an impact in England and Scotland too. Men such as William McCrum from Armagh, who invented the penalty-kick, and Billy McCracken from Belfast who changed the offside law in 1925 are brought back to life. A chronological thread leads from those men to Peter Doherty in the 1950s, George Best in the 1960s to Liam Brady in the 1980s and on to modern day players. 

    Blending original archival research, travel writing, and interviews with many of the game’s defining characters, Green Shoots looks at Irish football domestically and internationally. World Cups and European Championships are recalled and re-examined not just in sporting terms, but as defining moments in the country’s modern history.

    Green Shoots is the engrossing account of the inside stories, dramas and dreams of the game in Ireland. Above all it is the definitive history of a footballing nation and its many paradoxes.


    Michael Walker has been a football reporter for over 25 years working for The Observer, Guardian, Irish Times, Independent and Daily Mail. Born in Belfast, Walker attended his first match in 1975 — Northern Ireland versus Yugoslavia at Windsor Park. He has reported regularly on both Irish International teams and has covered four World Cups and five European Championships.

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