Blues Sisters Makes for Red Hot TV

In its simplest terms that was as good as it gets when it comes to the genre of sports documentary.

Last night’s first airing of Blues Sisters, a year-long look behind the scenes at the Dublin Ladies Football teams’ bid to put three years of hurt behind them was emotional, engaging and compelling in every way.

We got to know the players in a way that was wonderfully constructed through stark to camera interviews intercut with a narrative of needing to win five games to lift the Brendan Martin Cup on the fourth Sunday in September.

We saw them for who they are in personal and footballing terms. Noelle Healy was the forward asked to do 90 percent running and ten percent shooting. She was the ultimate footballer of the year who was singled out in the dressing room at halftime in the semi-final for not playing to her strengths and who turned it around ‘on her terms, on Dublin’s terms.

The fact that she is a qualified anaesthetist was never mentioned, nor was the fact that Sinead Aherne works for KPMG nor that Sinead Finnegan is a leading PR Manager with Teneo Sports.

What we saw of Finnegan was a young woman who lost the footballing anchor that was her Dad and took a year out of football when Dublin broke through to win the All Ireland in 2010 and had only suffered defeat in Blue at Croke Park.

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A niggling calf injury put her appearance in September in real doubt but Manager Mick Bohan had the instinct to know that even allowing her to play ten minutes would be important to her and to the team. Whether he believed that ‘adrenaline’ would get her through’ or that his belief was rooted more in psychology than physiology was deemed irrelevant by the fact that they came through when it mattered.

We saw Lauren Magee as the daughter of a Dublin star who never got to win an All Ireland and a woman who has grown to be the aggressive engine of the team.

We saw the importance of friendship, of bonds created that could never have been forged without football and how much that meant to players like Sinead Goldrick and Nicole Owens.

The interviews were raw, the management styles of Bohan and his backroom team were the kind you would want in every team you or your son or daughter was involved with.

The detail shone through as well, from Ken Robinson’s in-depth knowledge of every pitch dimension and how that would impact playing styles through to a full rehearsal of the parade and the national anthem a week out.

This was a great story with a likeable bunch of characters. But that alone does not make great television. This was great television. From the selection of music including the theme to the Sopranos on the team bus journey to Croke Park, traversing Glasnevin rather than New Jersey but powerful nonetheless to the final scenes of Florence and the Machine on the soundtrack but drowned out by the celebrations from the players, everything was right.

If you have a daughter involved in sport, find it on the RTÉ Player and sit with them to watch it.

If you have a daughter for whom sport has become a little too much, play this back and let her see that it means so much more than the mud and the sweat and the bruises and the time.

I am biased given that we have long held a torch for just how important sport is for young girls and women. It’s not all about the winning, it really is about the friendships and the life lessons they draw from the simple fact of kicking a ball or lacing up a pair of runners.

This was magical TV. Full credit to Pat Comer, to Paula Fahy, to Cliona O’Leary and to all those who had a hand in commisioning it.

Update:  RTÉ has revealed that Monday’s show was watched by an average audience of 237,000 over the course of the one hour broadcast.

Update: We know we have made it when the Dublin Ladies website publishes our review of the programme on its own website. Thanks, team!

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Image Credit: Inpho

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