The Game: A Journey Into the Heart of Sport


Novelist, sportswriter and All-Ireland minor hurling winner Tadhg Coakley ruminates on the importance of sport in his life. He reflects on the joys of sport, as player and fan, and sport’s pervasive influence, good and bad, on humanity.

Tadhg Coakley

May 2022


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Why is sport so important to us?
Is it because we make it so important to us?
Something so silly and worthless, but at the same time so vital.
What’s that all about?

The Game is a multifaceted reflection on sport. It is part memoir, outlining Tadhg Coakley’s time as a player and fan, and how sport has shaped his life. But it also tackles sport on a universal scale – the good and the bad – and its immeasurable influence on our world.

For fans, sport can be all-consuming. Indeed, we are consuming sport in ever greater gulpfuls, often blindly. It has a dark side; it is rife with corruption, sexism, homophobia, nationalism and a raft of toxic masculine behaviour, and Coakley interrogates his own attitudes on each of these fronts.

On the other hand, sport builds all manner of valuable connections and communities, and in sport – as in art – people can forge their own identities with grace, imagination and the possibility of what may be. This duality is one of the most fascinating aspects of sport.

Written with warmth, openness and keen insight, The Game is an entertaining and thought-provoking meditation on the uniquely intense highs and lows of loving sport in today’s world.


Part 1
The Game

Part 2

Part 3
Initiations, Longing to Belong
Memories – Peculiar Veracities
The Collective
Giving Voice to my Own Astonishment

Part 4
Dark Passions
My Sports Hero Riku Riski and Some Questions
Am I Sexist?
Losing – The Anonymous Subsoil

Part 5
A Place Beyond Words

Part 6
Hurt 1: Masculinity
Hurt 2: Fallibility
My Coronavirus Comeback

Part 7
Returning Home to Innocence

Tadhg Coakley is from Cork. His debut novel, The First Sunday in September (2018), was shortlisted for the Mercier Press Fiction prize. His second, Whatever It Takes, was chosen as the 2020 Cork, One City One Book. Tadhg’s short stories, articles and essays have been published in The Stinging Fly, Winter Papers, and The Irish Times, and he writes about sport for the Irish Examiner.

‘Any of us who write about sport will have thought about writing this kind of book at some point. An attempt to understand sport, to explain it (and us), to stake its outer boundaries in our own peculiar way. Thankfully for all concerned, Tadhg Coakley has saved the world the bother of having to plough through all that. The Game is a thoughtful, artful gem.’
Malachy Clerkin

‘A heartfelt exploration of sport and so much more. A many-chambered book that is empathetic and engaging.’
Sinéad Gleeson

‘This is a towering work. … The essays ‘Miracles’ and ‘Kisses’ are two of the most beautiful, poignant and heartfelt pieces of writing I’ve ever read.
Tadhg is clear-eyed, intelligent, and unrelentingly honest about the darkness that pervades the business of sport and its capacity to arouse our basest instincts … He asks the hardest of questions and delivers unflinchingly honest answers. This is no paean … it is a brilliantly forensic and startlingly objective account of the ways that sport at once transcends, debases and delineates our humanity.
‘Tadhg admits to feeling like an outsider but he is firmly and undeniably in the inner circle of the great sportswriters. And he is clearly, though he’d probably deny it, the truest of sportsmen.’
Donal Ryan

‘Crisply written and thought-provoking … My absorption never faltered. An essential book for fans of both sport and probing essays alike.’
Rory Kiberd, The Irish Times

‘[The Game] takes us on a journey into the heart of sport that at times will lift your own and at others make it ache. … Its beauty is in how personal yet universal it is, how he blends what is in some ways a sociology of sport with what is in part a memoir, making it a work of literature … where The Game is at its most brilliant and moving is when he explores how it can stir the best of us, or bring out others who remain part of us. … Coakley has come up with one of the most distinctive, original, beautiful and best books on sport this country has known. A treasure.’
Kieran Shannon, Irish Examiner

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