This story is the second in a series about Eoin, Brian and school rugby in Ireland, the first being Rugby Spirit. I knew little about rugby and cared even less, but this is such a good read that I feel quite ‘converted.’ The story is a pacey and warm-hearted account of one boy’s new school term as captain of the under-14s with the responsibilities that brings. It is also a how-to-book: how to develop self-respect; how to deal with divided loyalty to friends who don’t get on; how to deal with bullies; and how to honour the heroes of the past. Eoin, then, is a boy dealing with big issues, but they’re seamlessly woven into a fact-filled story about the team’s efforts to win the cup.
It’s not all sport. Eoin is writing a piece for a history competition about an Irish rugby star from the First World War era. He is helped by two ghosts based on real sportsmen: Dave, a New Zealander who fought in the trenches, and the Irish player, Brian Hanrahan, who died in a scrum at the very ground where Eoin’s Castle Rock team are playing. He fulfils the role of guardian angel with advice to Eoin at moments of crisis.
Mix this with Eoin’s dawning realization that a new boy at school has a serious, maybe life-threatening problem, together with the fall-out from Eoin’s absent father’s political activities, and we have a cracking plot with an exciting and unexpected conclusion. The crisp dialogue is full of humour. Siggins, a sports journalist, describes the team ‘sauntering’ or ‘strolling’ to victory but he brings tears, too. Highly recommended for any under 14s including girls who want a glimpse into a boy’s world.