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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 20 November, 2018
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From 'not a chance' to covering the cost of post-training meals: How 'Blues Sisters' got the green light

Dublin manager Mick Bohan explains the agreement reached to document his side’s 2017 championship campaign.

“NOT A CHANCE.”

That was Mick Bohan’s response on numerous occasions as he was hounded time and time again about the prospect of his Dublin ladies football team starring in a TV documentary as they chased All-Ireland glory in 2017.

Dublin players celebrates with the Brendan Martin Cup The 2017 All-Ireland senior champions. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The three years prior had brought nothing but hurt and heartbreak on All-Ireland final day in Croke Park. Three losses to Cork. In 2014, a one-point defeat. In 2015, the difference was two and in 2016, one again.

Absolute devastation.

2017 was a new year though. A fresh start with a new face at the helm as the quest to get their hands on the Brendan Martin Cup for the first time since 2010 — and just the second time in the county’s history — began once again.

Fourth time lucky.

And Cormac Hargaden of Loosehorse saw a fascinating story just waiting to be shared with the Irish public in documentary format.

A native of Clontarf just like Bohan, he chanced his arm and rang the new Dublin boss one day, pitching the idea.

“Our discussion on the phone was very brief,” Bohan explained at the Dublin media night ahead of their highly anticipated All-Ireland final meeting with Cork on Sunday.

“I just said, ‘Cormac, not a chance. If I was in my second or third year and we had done something, it’s certainly something we’d consider. But first year and with everything these guys have gone through, if they were to fail publicly, this could destroy them altogether.’”

Cue Pat Comer, the substitute goalkeeper and filmmaker who followed Galway’s 1998 All-Ireland football final win in the widely-acclaimed ‘A Year ‘Til Sunday’.

Bohan was familiar with him from his time coaching the Clare footballers. Comer had done some work with them which was received very well. So there was that connection. The response from Bohan was the same: not a chance.

The phonecalls weren’t working. It was time to chase him down in person. 

“I arrived at work one day and then, sure enough, Pat Comer was waiting for me in the car-park,” Bohan continues. “So it was clear these guys weren’t going to give up.

Mick Bohan Dublin manager Mick Bohan. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“He said to me, ‘You know I’m a lucky cameraman – the three teams I’ve been involved in doing behind the scenes stuff for have won All-Irelands.’ I said I don’t believe in hoodoos or black magic or anything like that.”

Shortly after, Hardagan arrived to his mother’s house in Clontarf. The deadline for the submission was fast approaching. He promised that it would be something really special, something the players would treasure for the rest of their lives.

No. Again.

“And again, I said, look, that’s fine, I hear you and I’ve spoken to them and they’re not against it. But I just think it’s an absolute landmine to be going near.”

Then came the last-chance saloon.

A solution to an ongoing problem.

“We talked about finance,” Bohan says. “At that time – and this is true – this group were coming here to training and they weren’t getting fed.

“People talk about finance in Dublin – I still remember the conversation I had with Sinead Finnegan about coming to training and going home at half 10 at night and having beans and toast when she got home.

“Sinead Aherne, who had a high-pressure job with KPMG told me that on the nights she doesn’t train, she’s home at 10pm and that getting home to Malahide at 10.30-11pm on the nights she does train having not been fed left her body depleted.

“That was the first thing we said we would address when we came in. Our food bill last year was €17,500. When you say that to people, they say it’s ridiculous money. But it was the first thing we went after.

Mick Bohan and Noelle Healy celebrate Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“And when Loosehorse said they would cover it, that’s what made the documentary happen. That was the decision.”

(A spokesperson for Loosehorse told The42 that the financial details above did not accurately reflect their contribution, but had yet to respond to a request for an alternative figure at the time of publication.)

And from there, the cameras were let in to follow Dublin on a journey of highs and lows, ups and downs as they got their hands on that coveted All-Ireland title.

The highly-acclaimed, candid ‘Blues Sisters’ hit TV screens across the length and breadth of the country on Monday, 27 November 2017.

The knock-on effect was massive, the aftermath huge.

“I still remember the day after it was shown, one of the students coming up to me out in Mark’s Community School in Tallaght,” Bohan grins.

“This was one of my prize PE students who I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a tracksuit – and she goes, ‘That was deadly last night, sir.’ And I asked her what was deadly about it and she goes, ‘It was fuckin’ emotional!’

“That was the best way she could articulate the effect of it. And she was right. it was emotional. And it was emotional because the stories were true.

“They were telling real-life stories. They were letting people into their lives.”

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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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