April 22, 2024

The Rocky Road – Eamon Dunphy’s Autobiography

“He’s the most entertaining, blindingly brilliant pundit of all time” GUARDIAN


You may love him or loathe him. You may not always, or even never, agree with him but Eamon Dunphy almost always registers. For more than thirty years, no commentator on Irish sport, politics and culture has been the object of so much love, hatred and fascination as Dunphy. Now, for the first time, he tells the remarkable story of his own life – in his own words. And whatever else you might think of the man he most certainly can write.

Dunphy’s autobiography, The Rocky Road, is a beautifully articulate exposé of the man and, as you might expect, it is bursting with passion. Needless to say, it also opens old wounds and may spark some renewed controversies.

Named by his cherished mother after Eamon de Valera, Dunphy was raised in poverty on the northside of Dublin. He was a good student who was never sure he could afford to finish school. The great passion of his life was football – and it was football that changed his life, when he got the call from Manchester United. Leaving his beloved parents in Dublin, Dunphy arrived in Manchester one day short of his fifteenth birthday – to join a club which included Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and soon George Best, playing under the watchful eye of the great Matt Busby.

The dream didn’t quite come true, and when he saw that he was unlikely to break into the first team he requested a transfer. ‘Nobody asks for a transfer from Manchester United’ Busby told him; but Dunphy wanted first-team football, and stuck to his guns. Thus began his career as a journeyman at the lower levels of the English Football League.

Dunphy moved back to Dublin, and with his playing career was coming to an end, began work in journalism. His views on the politics of the time, his attacks on the sacred cows of what he dubbed Official Ireland, were bracing and often controversial. But for sheer intensity, nothing could match the firestorms generated by his commentary, in print and on television, about the Irish international soccer team. Dunphy’s refusal to abandon his critical faculties when the Boys in Green took the pitch made him, for some considerable time, Public Enemy Number One in Ireland, particularly during the period when Jack Charlton was manager of the Republic. His account of his absurd and sometimes terrifying experiences during that strange time is gripping and indelible.

These experiences made Dunphy a household name – and they almost broke him. In The Rocky Road Dunphy takes us behind the scenes of a passionate life. He reveals that his penchant to court controversy was something of a contrivance. In the book he tells us that, amongst others, he admired the great English theatre critic Kenneth Tynan. Pinned to his desk at the Observer newspaper Tynan had a note declaring “Rouse tempers, goad, lacerate, raise whirlwinds. ” During his career as a journalist Dunphy has certianly roused a few tempers and raised the odd whilwind or two. Tynan had another motto that Dunphy was also inclined adhere to: “Write heresy, pure heresy.”

The Rocky Road is a fascinating insight into one of Ireland’s most controversial figures of modern times. Dunphy bares his sole on many issues which should help readers to understand this multifaceted and enigmatic character. He recounts how his contrarian views, particularly during the 1990 World Cup, took their toll on him and his loved ones. His depiction of John Hume’s scheming to have Dunphy fired from his position at the Irish Independent certainly jars with the general view of Hume as an honest Irish hero. Hearsay or heresy?

However, The Rocky Road is just a part of the Eamon Dunphy story as it only deals with his life up the beginning of the 1990’s. His mature reflections on the infamous Saipan Incident (indeed there’s not one mention of Roy Keane in the book), his radio career, his failed TV chat show, amongst other more recent aspects of his life remain unrevealed. Presumably we will have to wait for the next edition for that, but in the meantime we will have to make do with The Rocky Road. It is a brilliantly written work on the life and times of a complex man that continues to engage the Irish public in a way that, perhaps, no other public figure has ever done. The Rocky Road is recommended reading – and not just for football fans.

Eamon Dunphy is also the author of Only a Game?, A Strange Kind of Glory: Matt Busby and Manchester United, Unforgettable Fire: The Story of U2, and as the ghost-writer of Keane : The Autobiography.

Book Details

Title: The Rocky Road
Author: Eamon Dunphy
Publishers: Penguin Ireland
Published: October 2013
Hardcover: 400 pages
Availability: In any good book store
ISBN-10: 1844883329
ISBN-13: 978-1844883325

Other Football Books Reviewed on Soccer-Ireland

Keane : The Autobiography
Off Centre Circle
The Team That Jack Built
Who Stole Our Game
1,000 Celtic Quotes, Notes and Anecdotes
Gaffers: 50 Years of Irish Football Managers
Triggs: : The Autobiography of Roy Keane’s Dog
Irish Devils: The Official Story of Manchester United and the Irish
Dave Langan: Running Through Walls
The Rocky Road