Set at an elite liberal arts school in a Western Massachusetts university town, picaresque On Their Manor chronicles the experiences over the course of a fall semester of Mick McNulty, an assertive working-class Londoner of Irish parentage, captain of the soccer team. McNulty challenges breezy, underachieving teammates who regard soccer as either a trapping of suburban privilege or an expression of hipster correctitude.
Prominent in the story is the development of the friendship between McNulty and his roommate and teammate Brendan Kelleher, a refined, mildly depressive New Englander who obsesses over the ironies of the new multiculturalism and the Irish-American experience.
Far from another sanguine tribute to “The Beautiful Game,” On Their Manor addresses the conflict surrounding soccer and the sport’s role in the American culture war. Accounts of McNulty’s impatience with the affectations of teammates, opponents, and observers, introduce readers, especially those drawn to the novel for its humor and social commentary, to soccer’s less celebrated gritty side and to a concept of leadership born of uncompromising London swagger and Irish intensity.