New Westmeath GAA book in the shops next week

Well known Mullingar freelance sports journalist, Gerry Buckley, hopes to have his latest book on Westmeath GAA in the shops towards the end of next week. .

Laochra Gael na hIarmhí is a collection of 17 in-depth profiles which he undertook with former Lake County footballers and hurlers for the Westmeath Examiner when lockdown meant an absence of live sport earlier this year.

Gerry explains: “I was asked to do a piece with Eoiny Price when he retired from the inter-county scene. I enjoyed that, as I always had huge respect for the Clonkill man as a hurler and a person. I then suggested to the sports editor that it might be a very useful two-page ‘filler’, when there were no matches taking place, to chat at length with a range of men who had worn their club and Westmeath jerseys with distinction. My next ‘victim’ was Olly Gallagher, (slightly!) older than Eoiny, but another man I rated highly as a hurler and person. And it kind of took off from there. So I nabbed 15 others (aged somewhere between Eoiny and Olly!) as the weeks went by.”

He continues: “Top referee Barry Kelly was my walking partner during the worst of Covid. I am almost 14 years older than him, but I’m glad to say that he never left me trailing in his wake during our long walks! I used to toss around other potential interviewees with him, and some of those profiled were Barry’s suggestions. The series proved popular, I’m pleased to say, and I think I got round to a good spread of interviewees. When live sport resumed, I had to go back to ‘normal’ reporting work. However, who knows, if the opportunity arises (and not, please God, due to Covid ‘lockdowns’) there are several others with whom I would like to go down ‘memory lane’, particularly in the south of the county. Three people did a ‘Danny Blanchflower’ on me by very politely declining my offer. To be honest, I was not unduly surprised, as they are very private people.”

Gerry Buckley. Photo by Thomas Gibbons

“I would like to acknowledge the support of my partner for the past six years, Emer Smith from Ballinteer, for her proof-reading of the original articles and her ongoing encouragement to put the book together. She saw me at my moaniest and thickest (and, by God, that is moany and thick!) when originally compiling the articles. There was enormous work involved – phone chats of up to 2.5 hours (sorry, Michael Kilcoyne!) – and then putting all those thoughts together in a meaningful manner. I also warmly acknowledge the support I got in recent months from former county board chairman, Sean Sheridan. In addition, I am delighted to have had the opportunity to dedicate the book to four wonderful Westmeath Gaels, all genuine friends of mine – and genuine friends are hard to find – who have sadly passed away in the past three-and-a-bit years,” Gerry adds.

He concludes as follows: “Of course, publishing books does not come cheap and I am deeply indebted to John Moore in New York, his very helpful son Sean E, and all of the hugely respected Moore family in Westmeath, London and New York, for their generous sponsorship – and it was forthcoming immediately that it was requested. Ned Moore is an iconic figure in these parts and I hope that I have succinctly profiled him and 16 others, all of whom I greatly admired on and off the playing fields. There are hundreds and hundreds of footballers and hurlers whom I warmly applaud for wearing my beloved maroon and white jersey since I was a small boy climbing the tree in Flanagan’s Mills to get into Cusack Park, before more often than not going home in floods of tears when Westmeath lost. I often say – and mean – that I would have slept on a bed of nails to have represented Westmeath, but I simply hadn’t the necessary skills. I hope this book highlights the achievements of those who had the required skill set.”

In addition to the four people mentioned above, Gerry also interviewed the following: Seamus Conroy, Brian McCabe, Pat Clancy, John O’Brien, Eamonn Clarke, Damien Gavin, Sean Greville, Tommy ‘Jogger’ Doyle, Dermot Brady, John Fleming, Fergal Murray, Gary Connaughton and Darren McCormack. The book will be on sale in a variety of shops around the county towards the end of next week. In recognition of the Westmeath Examiner’s valued connection to the book, the newspaper’s management has kindly funded hardback copies for Gerry to distribute to the 17 interviewees. The softback books for sale to the general public are very modestly priced at ten euro.

‘Laochra Gael na hIarmhí’ will be an ideal Christmas gift for Westmeath Gaels, at home and abroad.