All to Play For

All to Play For

Thirteen year old Anna is struggling to cope with the recent loss of her father, when she discovers a forgotten gift from him - a pair of bright orange football socks. With the help of these brightly coloured good-luck charms, Anna slowly begins to gain confidence both on and off the pitch. 


Children's Book Award: Age 10-13 - 2021

Literature Association of Ireland - Short-listed

Paperback: €8.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Size:196x130 mm
ISBN: 9781788491839

E-Book (ePub): €5.99
Also available as an E-Book (ePub)
ISBN: 9781788492041

'Who are we?'

'Ballymarra! Ballymarra!' everyone shouted loudly.

Thirteen-year-old Anna loves Gaelic football, and she's good: focused, skilled and strong.

But then everything changes; after a terrible loss, Anna and her family move to a new town.  How will she cope with a new home, new school and new GAA club?

It seems like even football can't give her comfort, maybe some help from an unexpected place is just what she needs......

Football, friendship & family forever

Donn McClean

DONN McCLEAN is a sports writer, specialising in horse racing. He has written for many publications, and is currently the main features writer on horse racing for The Sunday Times in Ireland and The Irish Field. He is also the author of four racing biographies and is a regular analyst on TV and radio.

He lives in Wicklow with his wife and four daughters and coaches underage soccer teams. This is his first book for younger readers.


Irish Examiner

a resounding thumbs up from our 8yo boy … about an ordinary club footballer just like him, except she’s a girl. Great work by Donn McClean

RTE Sport's Evanne Ni Chuilinn

a moving and heartfelt story

Children's Books Ireland's ‘Mind Yourself’ Reading Guide

Growing up is never easy! It’s not any easier when you move to a new town and school. Anna must deal with this anxiety, as well as cope with the loss of her father. Anna and her father loved Gaelic football and her game falters without his support. All to Play For by Donn McClean tells the story of how Anna struggles with the grief of her loss, while she tries to help her new team win the county final. A moving and heartfelt story.

Children's Books Ireland

Football is everything to Anna and, like many keen sportspeople, she has a special talisman to bring her luck In her case, it’s a pair of bright orange football socks, which she believes guarantee her good fortune when she wears them in a match. The socks, as it turns out, are far more than a lucky-charm fashion item to Anna, while Donn McClean’s novel for early teens is far more substantial than your average story of sporting trials and triumphs. Such tales are legion: They tell of team-building, camaraderie, and injury scares; the agonisingly narrow defeat to the arch rivals, and the blow-by-blow match report of the final, inevitably won by the underdogs against all odds. McClean, a sports-writer specialising in horse-racing and an analyst on TV and radio, mixes many of these familiar ingredients to good effect and this is, indeed, a story of sporting triumph over adversity, though not in the conventional sense. Though the action on the pitch is gritty and physical, the real driving force at the heart of the novel is a compelling story of grief and acceptance…McClean is able to explore weighty themes including bullying and the many stages of grief, as well as the complex feelings surrounding new relationships formed by bereaved parents. What’s refreshingly different about this novel is the visceral physicality of the emotions displayed by its strong female characters, the punches and tackles on the football field flowing as readily as the rivers of tears Anna sheds along the way

Evening Echo

A 13-year-old girl’s story of loss and life, shot through her experiences with her new football team. It is poignant in places, inspirational in others and a reminder that life is never straightforward

Irish Times

A moving novel about a girl who loves Gaelic football

Irish Independent

The protagonist is a teenage girl, something of a first for Irish sports fiction. The story of how Anna navigates a family tragedy, a new town, new school, and new ladies football team makes for a gripping and sometimes poignant narrative

Irish Examiner

perfect for the summer holidays

Croke Park

Teaching Resources: free to view and download

  • Download Teaching Guides: Teaching guide to the book by Nicola Heaney

Also by Donn McClean:

Thrills and Spills
Flat Out

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