From sportsfield to the arena of death

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Ballymena journalist Stephen Walker has delved back into the generation defining tragedy of World War One in his latest historical work.

Having examined the stories of the Irishmen ‘shot at dawn’ in a previous volume, the former Ballymena Academy pupil has written a poignant and informative account of Irish sporting heroes who fell during the conflict.

‘Ireland’s Call’ is the BBC Political Correspondent’s third book. In it he has combined two life long interests - Irish military history and local sporting traditions (he freely admits to being one of many long suffering followers of Ballymena United FC!).

A century on, ‘Ireland’s Call’ offers a fresh perspective on the role played by leading sportsmen in the tragedy.

It chronicles the heart breaking stories of men who swapped sporting kit for battledress. Many of these men were household names who gave up their careers to volunteer.

No less than 40 Irishmen are featured in the book ranging right across the sporting disciplines.

Drawing on their letters, memoirs and newspaper reports, Stephen has woven together their personal tales of life on the sports field and their careers in uniform.

The roll call includes such remarkable characters as Harry Sloan, the Irish football international who was the first to score at the newly built Dalymount Park; Basil Maclear, the rugby centre, capped 11 times for Ireland, who captained Munster when they played the All Blacks in 1905.

Others include Frank Browning, the Irish cricketer and President of the IRFU who helped establish the ‘Rugby Pals’ battalion at Lansdowne Road.

‘Ireland’s Call - Irish Sporting Heroes Who Fell in the Great War’ by Stephen Walker is available from all good bookshops.