The Choice is The Choice as Sports Book of 2017

There are some outcomes you just know are the right ones. Philly McMahon’s heartfelt account of his life on and off the pitch, ‘The Choice’ written with Niall Kelly, has been named the winner of the eir sport Sports Book of the Year 2017. While waiting for the announcement of the Award in the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin yesterday that was the one tweet we had prepared.

‘The Choice’ traces Philly and his brother John’s paths, from his earliest recollections of their childhood through the maelstrom of Ballymun’s heroin epidemic.

He considers the relationships, tensions, arguments and chance occurrences that pushed them in very different directions: Philly to university, the boardroom and the hallowed turf of Croke Park; John to exile in London, heartbreak and, ultimately, tragedy.

The raw, vivid and intensely moving autobiography is told in the structure of the first half, halftime and second half discussing the choices that we all have in life and how Philly chose a path that his brother never got a chance to choose.

This is the third year of the competition and the third winner to come from the GAA. In looking at why this might be the case our half considered conclusion is that the wider life experience of amateur over professional sport gives a greater connection to readers own experiences.

McMahon’s book was an obvious call albeit it was a year when any of the three shortlisted books, as well as a number of those that didn’t make the final three would all be worthy of an accolade.

The others on that shortlist were ‘The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish cycling’s golden generation’ with Barry Ryan; and ‘The Warriors Code’ by Jackie Tyrell with Christy O’Connor.

The winner of the eir sport Sports Book of the year will be boosted by €10,000 worth of advertising on eir Sport. McMahon also receives a €1,500 cash prize and a specially commissioned trophy, seen above being presented by Gordon Britchfield of eir.

“Ireland is recognised as a nation of great writers,” said Ruth Hegarty of Publishing Ireland, “so the competition was always going to be difficult.”

“Philly’s autobiography carries you to the last page and I congratulate him for that. Gill Books have found a talent; I look forward to what sports books publishers will find in 2018.”

“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 2017 were shortlisted and our friends in Publishing Ireland without whose help this awards scheme would not have been possible, added Glen Killane MD of eir TV and sport.

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