Stories of Northern Ireland are told against a different background for anyone under the age of 20. The story of Eamonn Magee, which was announced yesterday as winner of the eir Sport Sports Book of the Year 2018, was borne of a different and darker time crossing the transition to peace but highlighting just how difficult that was.
Magee was a talented Belfast Boxer who held two commonwealth titles, won bronze at the 1992 World Junior Championships and challenged for a European title.
Boxing has a hold on popular culture but this is a story that comes to life outside rather than in the ring.
The blurb from the back of the published version puts the story of Magee into stark relief.
“A book? Listen I’ve been beaten with Baseball Bats. I’ve had my throat slashed. I’ve been kidnapped and exiled out of the country. My Family’s been held captive in our home. I’ve been shot twice. I’ve been in prison and my son’s just been stabbed to death. Amongst all that I’ve been the Welterweight Champion of the World while drinking the bar dry and doing enough Coke to kill a small horse every night. My Life’s not a book, It’s a fucking movie script.”
That may be the case but for now it’s a book that is hardly an easy read but which has added the eir Sport accolade to the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in England.
Paul D. Gibson who wrote the book is a former journalist who last year became Director of International Operations with MTK Global. The Boxing Management firm looks after Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlon and Carl Frampton but has been in long running dispute with Dublin media over what they see as unfair media commentary over previous links to criminal families.
Whether the selection by a media dominated judging panel will help to thaw relations remains to be seen but Gibson’s twitter biography image suggests there is work still to be done.
The book took the prize yesterday ahead of what was strong competition. The final shortlist included; ‘Tony 10’ by Tony O’Reilly with Declan Lynch and ‘Fighter’ by Andy Lee with Niall Kelly.
This was the fourth year of the prize and the first in which Gaelic Football did not provide the winning background.
Gibson and Magee recieve a cash prize of €1,500 with the winning book will also set to benefit from €10,000 worth of TV advertising on eir sport and a specially commissioned trophy.
“On behalf of eir sport I’d like to thank all the authors and publishers who put forward books for consideration, our judging panel and chairman for their diligent efforts to ensure the best books in 2018 were shortlisted and our friends in Publishing Ireland without whose help this awards scheme would not have been possible,” said MD of eir Sport Susan Brady.
A total of 23 books were submitted for the longlist for the eir sport Sports Book of the Year 2018 with this list eventually being whittled down to a three-book shortlist from which today’s winner was chosen.