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Dublin: 3 °C Wednesday 26 February, 2020

'People look down their nose at the League of Ireland...but there is something about it you don’t get anywhere else'

The man behind a new short film celebrating the League and the Dublin Derby speaks to The42.

A scene from Zozimus.
A scene from Zozimus.
Image: Jamie Goldrick

THE LEAGUE OF Ireland abides. 

It had to reckon with partition, then a decades-long fatwa declared by the GAA and the monstrous shadow of English football cast by Match of the Day, all the while enduring beneath a series of indifferent senior international managers and governments and an historical FAI leadership that has ranged from feckless to incompetent. 

It can’t always be said to have best helped itself either, but nonetheless, it’s still here, exasperating and enthralling us, as it has every year since the foundation of the State. 

Perhaps this child’s difficulty came from its stubbornness.

The League is usually consumed by talk of what it’s not and what it might be, with far less time given to talking about what it is. 

It was in the spirit of the rarer discussion that film-makers Jamie Goldrick and David Knox brought five cameras to the season-opening Dublin derby of 2018 at Dalymount Park. 

The result was an 18-minute observational documentary titled Zozimus, available now on the RTÉ Player ahead of this afternoon’s derby in Phibsboro.

“I’d been at a few derbies before and thought, I really need to capture this”, Jamie tells The42. 

“Originally we didn’t want to show the ball. When we were storyboarding, we wanted the theatre of local football. Dalymount was the stage, and then you have the fans, the curry chips, all this kind of stuff, part of this theatre. We didn’t want to make a classic football movie, we wanted to make it about the experience.

“That’s the angle we took, and that guided our lens when we were shooting it.” 

The ball does make an odd appearance, just often enough to establish the game’s basic grammar. Rovers took a first-half lead but eventually lost 3-1 in a hectic, delirious Dalymount. 

The film’s vocabulary, though, are the faces: long, lingering shots of fans roaring, singing, gesturing and grimacing, all set to the fizzing glare of flares hanging in front of a dark Phibsboro sky. 

ZOZIMUS9 A scene from Zozimus.

“We could have gone out a hundred times and not got the result we wanted to get”, continues Jamie. “What really pulls it together is the expression on people’s faces, on both sides. That was what we were happiest with.

“There was hardly any wind, the smoke from the pyro hung in the stadium as a kind of natural diffusion, which you would pay a lot of money for if you were filming on set.

“Everything came together. The general atmosphere, we felt we captured it.

“I thought there was just something about it. There’s a mantra you hear from people who go to League: that you have to be there. People are missing a trick when they focus purely on the quality of the football, I don’t think it’s all about the football. I think they are swallowing propaganda from Sky.

It’s right on our doorstep and people don’t really rate it, as such. I wanted to show that it’s something you should go to, to be part of something. Especially this sense of connecting with joy, which you won’t get watching a Sky box. I’ve been to GAA and rugby, and I think there is a little bit of madness…there is something about the League of Ireland you don’t get anywhere else.

“It’s just something special. People say you really have to go there: that’s what we wanted to show.”

There is a significance in the title too. Zozimus – born Michael J Moran – was a Dublin-born street rhymer blinded by illness almost from birth.

“He was known as the Blind Baron of the Liberties. He was a street performer and known for taking rhyming structure of well-known verses – prayers and so on – and making them into his own songs. That struck me as having a little bit in common with football terraces all over the world. Especially at Bohs – they take that Spandau Ballet song and make it their own. 

“Zozuimus was a folk artist, he died in 1846 and his grave was unmarked until 1961. He’s not regarded in the canon of great literature or Irish performers, and I find parallels with the League of Ireland today.

“People look down their nose at the league of Ireland, but much like people heard of Zozimus, you had to be there to experience it.

“He was a folk performer, and that’s how his name lives on.” 

Thriving may always tomorrow’s business, but the League of Ireland nonetheless lives on. 

Zozimus is available to watch on the RTÉ Player now.  

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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