It is a series which has told the stories of GAA legends over 17 years and Laochra Gael will return to TG4 next month as it comes of age with six new profiles.
Each hour-long programme brings each player’s personal stories to the screen, allowing us a look inside the lives of those who entertain between the lines once they have crossed them back into the real world.
It has always been compelling viewing and this year looks to be right up to the mark with the inclusion of Kieran Donaghy, Diarmuid Lyng, Alan Brohan, Iggy Clarke, David Brady and Brenda McAnespie.
From stories of success to cruel defeats, from crises of faith to living through the Troubles these really do promise to be must-watch television.
“Many great warriors have played our games down through the years and TG4 are to be praised for the tributes they pay to these great heroes through their Laochra Gael series,” said GAA President John Horan launching the series which will get underway on Thursday evening, March 5th.
“These players are among the finest to have played our games. They have given so much happiness and memories, not only to people of their own clubs and counties but to the GAA community as a whole with their exploits on the field of play.”
“It is great that these players get to tell their stories through this television series and that new generations of young people can get to know them and to get to learn about their achievements. This series ensures that the legacy of these great players will live long in the memory.”
“TG4 takes great pride in its live match coverage but the Laochra Gael series also plays an important part in our Gaelic games coverage,” added Head of Sport, Rónán Ó Coisdealbha.
“The Laochra Gael series illustrates the achievements and the sacrifices of these wonderful sportspeople. This documentary series has become a key component of our Gaelic Games coverage since Laochra Gael began in 2001.”
The six episodes in this year’s show, produced by Nemeton TV, the independent production company from Ring in the Waterford Gaeltacht which has produced much of TG4’s acclaimed sports coverage.
Kieran Donaghy – On the Edge – 9.30 pm, Thursday 5th March
Kieran Donaghy, The man called Star has an extraordinary story: breaking through with the Underdogs, the experiment that made a full-forward out of him, the basketball hands, the decline and the revival, and of course, Joe Brolly.
In his career, Kieran won 4 All Ireland medals, 3 All-Stars and Footballer of the Year.
And in the background, the complex and difficult relationship with his father that was tied up in everything he did on the field of play.
Kieran Donaghy, who started out as an Underdog and became a Star.
Participants: Deirdre Donaghy, Paul Galvin,Micheál Quirke, Éamonn Fitzmaurice, Joe McMahon, Vincent Hogan, Michael Moynihan.
DiarmuidLyng – The Crossroads – 9.30 pm, Thursday 12th March
Diarmuid “Gizzy” Lyng was captain and leader of a Wexford team that performed heroics in their efforts to overcome Kilkenny, the greatest team of all time.
Then, at the height of his powers, he was struck down by a mysterious illness. He was forced to give up hurling and it seemed that life was falling apart.
Diarmuid travelled the world in search of physical and mental recovery. And it was in West Kerry, a place close to his heart that he finally found release.
Participants: Eoin Quigley, George O’Connor, CiaranLyng, Tommy Walsh, Siobhán de Paor, Michael Moynihan
Alan Brogan – The Family Silver – 9.30 pm, Thursday 19th March
Alan Brogan’s father and uncle were heroes of Hill 16. But if there was pressure on Alan because of this, he barely felt it.
Laid-back as a person, but fierce as a competitor, Alan was the beating heart of Dublin teams from his teens.
Despite Alan’s consistent excellence, it seemed that he would never bring Sam back to the capital. Then with the Brogan brothers to the fore, the tide turned. The “Blue Wave” had begun, and the greatest football team in history was built.
Participants: Bernard Brogan Snr, Bernard Brogan Jnr, Colm Parkinson, Paul Caffrey, Michael Moynihan, Éamonn Fitzmaurice, Lydia Brogan
Iggy Clarke – Body and Soul – 9.30 pm, Thursday 26th March
Iggy Clarke, or Fr Iggy as he was known, enticed hurling lovers across the country, but when the cheering stopped, he had a crisis of faith and embarked on a brand new life.
A rock in the half-back line, Iggy spearheaded the Galway hurling revival of the 70s. His greatest moment was cruelly denied with a horrific injury in the 1980 All Ireland Semi-Final.
But an unforgettable demand from the crowd during the most famous cup presentation of them all spoke volumes about the love of the Galway people for Iggy.
His hurling retirement was followed by an even bigger life decision, as Iggy Clarke embarked on, and embraced life as a layman.
Participants: Mariel Forde-Clarke, Fr. Joe Clarke, Tom Clarke, John Connolly, Seán Bán Breathnach, Pat Fleury, Vincent Hogan
David Brady – Against the Tide – 9.30 pm, Thursday 2th April
David Brady lost four All Ireland Finals with Mayo, and it is the pain and the anger that comes with this that informs one of the most controversial pundits in Irish sport.
A childhood on the quay in Ballina, where attitudes to the fishing laws were liberal, indicated that David Brady was not interested in going with the flow. Always a combative presence in midfield, David knows more than most about Mayo’s well-documented heartbreak.
But he remains unbowed by the many disappointments and refuses to be defined by them. Instead, he has carved out a reputation for saying exactly what is on his mind, whatever that may be.
Participants: Ger Brady, Alan Dillon, Seán Óg dePaor, Seán Bán Breathnach, Vincent Hogan.
Brenda McAnepsie – Beyond Borders – 9.30 pm, Thursday 9th April
Brenda McAnespie was the rock of the Monaghan Ladies footballers, even playing in an All-Ireland Final when she was pregnant, but away from the field, she has had plenty of experience with personal challenges and tragedy.
A pioneer of the woman’s game from its infancy, Brenda became a bedrock of a Monaghan team that conquered the sport in the 90s.
As a footballer, she truly did not know the meaning of giving up and played long enough to win an All-Ireland club title with her daughters.
But life on the border meant that trouble and tragedy were never far away for Brenda and her family.
Participants: Vincent McAnespie, Ciara McAnespie, Aoife McAnespie, Gráinne McElwain, Michael Morgan, Michael Ryan.
Image Credit: Sportsfile