Rugby reads

By Kathrin Kobus

Eoin Madden is mad about rugby. That wasn’t always the case. Author Gerard Siggins told the story of the fictional schoolboy Eoin Madden in five previous books, charting his way from learning to play rugby and becoming the school’s star player including a call-up into the Irish squad. It all started rather small and also had a different ballsport at its centre.
“The first book grew out of a long-running bedtime story I made up for my youngest son Billy. It was a soccer story, and he encouraged me to write it down, but it didn’t seem to work, so

I abandoned it for a while. Then I was researching the history of Lansdowne Road and came across the story of Brian Hanrahan, who was killed there playing a match for a Lansdowne FC. His story fitted with what I wanted the book to be and it flowed from there.”

The story of the ‘fatal scrum’ is recounted in another of Gerald Siggins’s books about Irish rugby history.
There are an intriguing cast of characters including the not-quite guardian angel Brian and the other ghosts who come along with each book. Among them are Irish rebel and Belvo winger

Kevin Barry and the man who ‘invented’ rugby William Webb Ellis. They are still accompanying Eoin Madden and the Castlerock College rugby team in the sixth book called Rugby Heroes.
Again, there is a mystery to be solved, next to homework, exam preparations and, of course, rugby matches to be fought and maybe not always won. The mix of ghost-fantasy story and everyday life of rugby or sports-mad teenagers resonates with readers.

“My favourite reading as a kid were mysteries, history, sport and school stories and I’ve put all four into each book of the Rugby Spirit series,” says Gerard. “I have met lots of kids who seem to enjoy the books and quite a few have told me they have tried rugby because of it. It wasn’t my plan, but it’s brilliant to see children doing something healthy and active.”
Right now, the Six Nations tournament has gotten underway. Ireland will face Italy, Wales and Scotland at home. So what does he think about our real life chances? “Fair play to Joe Schmidt he’s found some new gems. As coach of Leinster he probably had a lot to do with bringing them on too. England look badly hit by injuries but will be our biggest danger as usual. That said, I’d sooner lose the next two Six Nations if it meant we won the 2019 World Cup.

The sixth book was supposed to be the last, however best-laid plans are subject to change, so Ger Siggins changed his mind. “It’s a bit embarrassing really! I wrote Rugby Heroes intending it to be his last, but I was asked to write a book to be given away for World Book Day and so he makes a return. Rugby Heroes is out February 12th and Rugby Roar on February 19th, so it’s probably the shortest retirement in literary history!”
There might also be a spin-off starring Eoin Madden, the clues for the new direction are to be found in book six, so look out for what the next adventure of Eoin might be about.