Rugby Union went professional in 1995. No country was more opposed to this development than Ireland, nor less prepared to deal with it. Yet, despite many disasters in the late 1990s, the game in Ireland has gone from strength to strength in the professional era. Brendan Fanning's marvellous book tells the story of how it happened. It's a story of confused loyalties, personality clashes, states of denial, blazers and alickadoos, romance and luck. Early failures in the system put iron in the soul. By a mixture of good fortune and foresight, the IRFU developed a system that brought the cream to the top. And how rich it has been. Ireland has been fortunate to produce an outstanding generation of players, of whom Keith Wood, Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell have been world-class stars. And along the way there has been the greatest romance of all, the roller-coaster heartbreak and triumph of Munster in the Heineken Cup. Brendan Fanning tells all these stories, plus those of promising players who have disappeared without trace, committee room squabbles, development tours, and the whole series of triumphs and disasters that has brought Irish rugby to its present pinnacle.
Munster are the Heineken Cup holders and Ireland are Triple Crown champions for only the eighth time in their history. The game has never been more popular or more successful, but much of its management structure is still stuck in the amateur era. The next step is upward again.