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26th Aug 2015

New book on the dawn of professional rugby in Ireland is a must for all sports fans

An excellent read

Alan Loughnane

Get down to your local bookshop.

It’s easy to forget that rugby has only been a professional game for the last 20 years, especially when you consider the popularity of the sport in Ireland and abroad today.

Players are now able to earn large sums of money, with Dan Carter set to become the first ever €1 million-a-year rugby player and some Irish stars earning around €600,000 per year.

But it wasn’t always like this, as SportsJOE journalist, rugby expert and all-round sound guy Patrick McCarry outlines in his new book, ‘The New Breed: Irish Rugby’s First Professionals’.

The New Breed cover

The riveting account put together by McCarry includes interviews with many Irish rugby players, both current and from the early days of professional rugby, such as Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell, Ronan O’Gara, David Wallace and Jonathan Sexton.

‘The New Breed: Irish Rugby’s Professional Era’ outlines the change of the rugby landscape, from the birth of professional rugby on this day 20 years ago, to the highly physical and scrutinised game we have on our hands today.

2011 Rugby World Cup, Ireland Rugby Squad Press Conference, Devon Hotel & Conference Centre, New Plymouth, New Zealand 9/9/2011 Jonathan Sexton during today's Press Conference Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan SheridanPatrick McCarry interviewing Jonathan Sexton ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

One particular extract from the book demonstrates how far the sport has come in just two decades. In an interview with former Leinster player and Ireland international, Girvan Dempsey, the fullback describes how their preparation and recovery was somewhat different in the ’90s.

“There were Mars bars and cans of Coke handed out for recovery after sessions. Now you have the recovery drinks, a science behind everything and an education, for the players, of their dietary and training needs…”

“Looking back to those first few years and the social element was very much part of the game. You look at it now and see how dedicated the players are and how alcohol is not really part of their diet or programme. We’d be going out on big nights out and getting bags of chips on the way home.”

The book shows how the transition from amateurism to professionalism wasn’t always easy, but on the back of consecutive Six Nations wins and a handful of European Cups for the provinces, the old phrase, “nothing in life worth having comes easy”, springs to mind.

The book is available nationwide now and if that isn’t quite enough for your rugby-mad self, you can head down to Hodges Figgis, on Dawson Street, Dublin this evening from 6pm, for the official launch of the book.