Downey dishes up a new political football

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Just how drastically would the shape of the island change if a snap border poll were called today? And just how dirty would the campaigning get?

For these answers and more, be sure and pick up Garbhan Downey’s latest comedy, Across the Line, released by Guildhall Press this week.

It’s the seventh novel from the acclaimed Derry writer, whose debut fiction, Private Diary of a Suspended MLA (2004) was described in the Sunday Times as “the best Northern Ireland political novel of the century”.

And this time Downey introduces another great local passion into the mix – soccer, with the first All-Ireland Cup dissolving into mayhem and sparking a referendum campaign.

“Like my other novels, you’ll find lots of spying, dirty tricks, a grisly murder or two and a little dark romance too,” Downey told the Journal.

“But Across the Line marries my two twin loves, soccer and politics, so I can honestly say I’ve never enjoyed writing anything so much.”

In Across the Line, the Taoiseach and Prime Minister are forced to step in to save fifteen years of peace after a football bet goes wrong.

Diehard republicans launch a campaign to repatriate the Donegal village of Muff back to its “lawful position within the United Kingdom” – after accidently filling out AIC entry forms in the wrong jurisdiction.

The matter is further complicated when two top British teams – who are attempting to qualify for Europe via the backdoor – start funding (and playing for) local Irish clubs.

“I’ve always said the only game dirtier than politics is football,” laughs Downey, “so now I’ve written the script to prove it.”

And for those who doubt that anything like that could ever happen here, it’s worth reminding you that five years ago Downey wrote a novel, Running Mates, about an extremely crooked race for the Irish presidency – featuring two Derry candidates...

Dana and Martin McGuinness, anyone?