The East Terrace - For the rugby football enthusiast

George Hook - Time Added On

George Hook
George Hook - Time Added On
Published by Penguin Ireland

By George Hook

Terrace Book of the Month - July 2006

‘I hated my life. For twenty-five years, I would wake up in the early hours of the morning and say a quiet prayer: ‘Dearest Jesus, please don’t let the sun come up.’’

Irish rugby pundit George Hook may not be too well known outside of his native Ireland, but the charismatic ex-coach, radio DJ and television personality has a fascinating story to tell in his autobiography, recently republished in paperback.

Equally loved and loathed for his brash, outspoken and opinionated personality, George Hook has written a shockingly honest book about both his career in rugby and his tragic personal life.

For those not living in the Emerald Isle, Hook was a top-level coach in Ireland during the amateur era. He was also responsible for Eddie O’Sullivan’s first major breaks in top flight coaching; working at Connacht with him and getting him involved in US rugby (Hook coached the 1987 American world cup side). He is currently one of the main rugby pundits on Irish television and combines his analysis work with his own radio talk show and forthright newspaper column.

Hook must be admired for painting such an honest portrayal of himself in his autobiography. There are not too many people who would write the following in the introduction to their life story:

‘If you manage to get through these pages without thinking at some point, What a Shit!, then I haven’t been hard enough on myself.

The main focus of his book is the three decades Hook spent fighting off his creditors, the banks and a nervous breakdown. In the late Sixties, Hook had made the disastrous choice to get into catering - despite having no idea at all about the business - and as a result spent thirty years barely holding his life and marriage together. He constantly lied to his family, his friends and his business partners. Such was the state of his personal life and his finances, he once stood on the end of a Dublin pier in the middle of the night and prepared himself to end it all by jumping into the sea. It was only in the late Nineties, when he got a role as a rugby analyst on Irish television, that he was able to begin paying off his debts and able to start piecing his shattered domestic life back together.

During the years of toil and struggle, Hook believes it was the old boy network that operates in rugby union that kept him alive and afloat. He certainly was fortunate to have so many loyal friends and acquaintances, many of whom he admits had no reason to show him any loyalty at all. He was also fortunate to live in Ireland in times when the tax office and banking authorities were slightly careless in carrying out their duties (a short venture into business in England had Her Majesty’s Tax Officers straight on his case and they effectively barred him from doing business in the country).

The extent to which Hook lied to his family and friends over the years can be seen by the fact for a long time he concealed his role with the US national team from his wife:

‘In California, I’d order an alarm call for the early hours of the morning. I’d sit up in bed and, putting on my best wide-awake voice, call Ingrid. It was lunchtime in Ireland. ‘It’s absolutely bucketing down here in Tralee,’ I’d tell her.’

Some of his past escapades were so cringe worthy that you almost find yourself reading them with your eyes half hidden between your fingers.

As well as the absorbing look into his failed business career, there are plenty of interesting recollections of his life in rugby and his views on Eddie O’Sullivan. Hook believes that the Irish coach has never acknowledged the role he played in helping him make his break into the top level of world coaching; meaning the pair don't have much of a relationship these days.

Although a prominent rugby personality in Ireland only, the book is an outstanding read whatever you knowledge of Hook or whatever your views are on him if you are familiar with the man.

A strongly recommended title for those who enjoy biographies with a bit of depth to them. It’s part horror story and part redemption tale. The rugby stuff is just an added bonus.