Eamon Dunphy – The Rocky Road

There can’t be many people in Ireland that don’t have an opinion of some sort about Eamon Dunphy. His football punditry is a breath of fresh air from the banal nonsense we’re used to seeing on televised coverage of sport. The only thing about such forthright honesty is that you’re almost certainly going to rub people up the wrong way.

He’s probably most deeply embedded in the national consciousness for his performance on RTE’s coverage of the 1990 Word Cup. The nation was riding on a wave of euphoria with the joy of holding their own in the tournament but Eamon was critical of the Route One football Jack Charlton was favouring.

The price for this honesty was his ten-year-old daughter being chased indoors while trying to celebrate David O’Leary’s winning penalty against Romania and his son being roughed up in a disco on the night of the homecoming. Such incidents involving the people he loved weighed heavily on Eamon and he himself faced incidents with people shaking his car and refusing to take him in taxis.

He’s a man that expresses deep gratitude for small incidents of kindness from people that sought to protect him from such things. He comes from humble beginnings, raised in a single room for four people with no hot water or electricity. He describes a time when people were living in fear and poverty while traders and those in power ripped them off before trying to wash away their sins by receiving Holy Communion of a Sunday.

He’s full of stories about his early experiences playing football in the local field and in the Dump and the wise youths that took Eamon under their wing. Summer proved to be lonely time with Eamon wandering around with little more than a ball for company, the other lads having made for the seaside or the cinema. Such things weren’t affordable to Eamon but the Drumcondra area is the source of a lot of joy with a good school, a local library and people to kick ball with.

He’s got a real distaste for Official Ireland and when he moves to England to play for Manchester United he’s more content in England than he was back in Ireland, delighted that he never bought into any of the anti-English beliefs.

His career takes him to clubs like Millwall and Reading and he proves to be a voice of dissent in most of them. He ruffles a fair few feathers when he expresses his views against apartheid and wears a black armband in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday. There’s a soap opera over a beef and pay suring his time at Reading.

When his football career comes to an end he’s fast-tracked into journalism with work at the Sunday Independent and Tribune. He proves to be every bit as honest in this role with the Blazers at the FAI and lauded politicians like John Hume being heavily criticised. He wants to lift the lid on the clowns that were running Irish soccer but also say his piece about the person in the manager’s seat. This sees him earning himself a glass of wine in the face from Eoin Hand and Jack Charlton exploding at him at his very first press conference.

He puts the account of his life forward beautifully and resists getting involved in any long rants. It makes for a very entertaining read and an invaluable insight into the mind of a unique figure. Whether you love him or hate him I think you could find much to enjoy in this.

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