Former Meath footballer recovered from broken neck to write historical novel

A FORMER Meath footballer who suffered a broken neck through years of playing rugby says he used the recovery time to write a book series about a forgotten period of history of Ireland.

When Conor Brennan from Kilmessan was told he had to retire from sport, instead of letting the devastating news defeat him, the dad-of-one turned his attention to his other passion and spent the next eight months writing ‘Wolves of the Irish Sea’, a two-part historical fiction series on Ireland's Viking heritage.

Conor grew up near the Hill of Tara on a landscape heavily draped in history, an area that has provided much inspiration for the author. He now lives in Perth, Western Australia with his partner Gillian and his eight month old daughter Demi.

"Growing up on the Hill of Tara, I've always been a fan of Irish history. It was on this hill that one of the main characters, Flann Sinna, sat as High King of Ireland. I always dreamed of writing a book on a mostly unexplored period and geography that I am incredibly interested in, namely the Viking era of the Irish Sea circa the late 9th century.

"Breaking my neck finally gave me the time to do what I have always wanted to do; write an epic story on this formative period of Irish history while also bringing in the Scottish and Norse-Gael perspective.

"I sat down to write this on one rainy Sunday evening in Perth and six months later I had 230,000 words."

Wolves of the Irish Sea is an epic story of political intrigue, warfare and treachery that will turn your blood cold and imprint the author's interpretation of the period upon the reader. If you love Bernard Cornwall’s “The Last Kingdom” or the “Vikings” TV show, you will love this says Conor.

Conor who has had many a sporting hat on over the years playing for Dunsany and Meath GAA paid the price for his dedication to the physical game of rugby when he broke his neck, however it wasn't a single incident that caused the injury rather years of playing in tough conditions.

"It was wear and tear, I probably did significant damage to it playing rugby. If you play so often, an injury can be disguised over years. I went to the physio during pre season training and I told him I have a pain in my back going down my arm that's going down my back and he said you have probably torn a muscle, needle it up with cortisone shots.

"The next time I wasn't right for training. He put my hand under the tap, the water gave an electric shock all the way up my arm to my head. He said Conor you shouldn't go to the hospital tomorrow, you need to go now.

"I had broken a lot of bones, I had done horrendous damage over the years. My neck injury is the latest and worst of a long series of injuries so it's a bit like the tide going out and dead bodies being revealed.

"I ended up losing about ten kilos in three weeks.

"The nature of rugby in Australia it's played on ground like a snooker table in good weather and the contact is just ferocious."

Not a total novice to the writing world, Conor previously had two books published, one of which was a guide to gambling, of sorts and the other a book on quizzing with a tongue in cheek title, "Not a Kardashian in sight."

"Small time, slightly profitable, gambling man of leisure" documented Conor's passion for sport and punting, much of which he learned spending time in his grandfather, Henry Loughran's pub in Navan.

"I used writing those books as learning platform. I'm one of the few people who has made a profit year in and year out punting but all the way through the book I warn people not to do it!

"My granddad is Henry Loughran and Henry Loughran's is a serious sporting pub. You can imagine the characters that came through the door of the pub over the years, it's there I picked up tips and tricks and strategies for making a few quid punting.

"My grandmother Sheila and grandfather Henry were like my third and fourth parents, I spent a lot of time there growing up.