Ireland’s Call: Irish Sporting Heroes Who Fell in the Great War


Stephen Walker

September 2015

Ireland’s Call is the poignant account of the Irish sporting heroes who perished on the battlefields of the Great War. Written by an award-winning BBC journalist and bestselling author, it features the lives of Irish international sports stars from the world of football, rugby, cricket, GAA, athletics and hockey, whose lives ended in the mud of the Somme, the despair of Ypres and the heat of Gallipoli.


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Ireland’s Call follows the fascinating stories of 40 Irishmen who swapped the sports field for the battlefield – household names who gave up their careers to volunteer for war. Using letters, memoirs and newspaper reports, it features the stories of international footballers, rugby players, cricketers, GAA stars, athletes and hockey players, whose lives ended in the mud of the Somme, the despair of Ypres and the heat of Gallipoli.

Stephen Walker’s charming yet poignant stories include an Irish athlete who competed in the 1908 London Olympics, and follows the remarkable journey of two GAA players who starred in All-Ireland Finals and later died at the Western Front. We hear of characters such as the exceptionally talented Harry Sloan, the Irish football international who was the first to score at the newly built Dalymount Park; Basil Maclear, the rugby centre, who capped 11 times for Ireland and captained Munster when they played the All Blacks in 1905; Irish international cricketer and President of the IRFU, Frank Browning, who went on to set-up the “Rugby Pals” Battalion based in Lansdowne Road; the first Irish golfer to win prize money at the British Open; the first schoolboy to play rugby for Ireland, and the story of Barney Donaghey from Derry who played for Man Utd, Burnley, Celtic, Hibs, Belfast Celtic and Glentoran, and who was ultimately killed at the Battle of the Somme. A century on, their sacrifice is finally recorded in this unique and moving chronicle.

Table of Contents

1 An Officer and a Gentleman
2 Crossing the Line
3 Browning’s Boys
4 Forgotten Gaels
5 Death of an Airman
6 The Battle of Balmoral
7 Red, Blue and Khaki
8 The Paris Three
9 The Call Up
10 For Club and Country
11 Goals and Gunfire
12 The Medicine Men
13 A Century On

About the Author

Stephen Walker is an award-winning BBC journalist of 25 years, and one of Northern Ireland’s best-known broadcasters. He is currently a Political Correspondent with BBC Northern Ireland. Stephen’s first book, Forgotten Soldiers: The Irishmen Shot at Dawn, was short-listed for the 2007 Irish Non-Fiction Book of the Year. His second book, Hide and Seek: The Irish Priest in the Vatican, who Defied the Nazi Command, was published in 2011 and was an Irish Times Best Seller.