This well researched and enjoyable read is a welcome addition to the recent spate of Irish soccer-related titles. 'Who Stole Our Game?' is different in that it is solely dedicated to our domestic game rather than the international scene. It is also unique in that it is an Irish soccer title written by an Irish journalist and published by an Irish company.
Whelan sets out to find out why League of Ireland games attracted crowds of 20,000+ in the 1950s and 60s but can only muster up several thousand nowadays, this at a time when the international team plays before sell-out crowds and thousands of people cross the Irish Sea each weekend to see games in Britain.
He outlines where the League ranked in the hearts and minds of the nation in the middle of the last century and how its standing has dropped so dramatically within a generation. The usual suspects are mentioned: the dominance of the GAA, the influence of the Catholic Church, the indifference of successive Governments, widespread coverage of British soccer, not to mention the mismanagement and amateurism of the FAI itself.
There is plenty of insight from players and officials, telling it exactly as it was and outlining what went wrong.
Ultimately, though, you are left with a feeling that our game wasn't stolen. The League, clubs, and FAI are all to blame and it could really have been a case of us all leaving the back door open and letting it sneak out itself.
The book is very well illustrated with fascinating photographs, though several could have been captioned better: action shots of Drumcondra v Cork and Shelbourne v Cork from the 60s fail to say if it is Cork Celtic or Cork Hibernians, while team shots of Drums and Shamrock Rovers, also from the 60s, do not identify the players.