Dublin's Blues Sisters and Ireland's girls in green prove a different class

The enjoyable Blues Sisters gave us plenty of what we are familiar with. The Sacrifices and The Demands. The Savage Hunger. The fierce hurt from last year, writes Larry Ryan.

Dublin's Blues Sisters and Ireland's girls in green prove a different class

Do all women’s teams have a suitable song prepared?

In the triumphant finale to RTÉ documentary Blues Sisters, the Dublin footballers unanimously agreed with Florence and The Machine that the dog days were over.

And minutes after the girls in green secured an unlikely point in Nijmegen against the European champions on Tuesday, the FAI had released footage of a delirious dressing room loudly echoing Rihanna’s views on finding love in a hopeless place.

Perhaps not every female dressing room is as in tune. But this was the joy of sport to a fresh rhythm.

Maybe the wait for equality can be shortened by celebrating and investigating the things women do a little bit differently.

More broadcast minutes and column inches are hard won. But in a week when Big Sam and Pards were rolled out again, you couldn’t help feel we might have already heard most of what men have to say.

And couldn’t but wonder how many fresh angles are out there just waiting for recognisable women to hang them on.

Might it be time to put women in charge of supplying the controvassy and bantz for a while? With Ireland’s Louise Quinn responsible for choreography.

The enjoyable Blues Sisters gave us plenty of what we are familiar with. The Sacrifices and The Demands. The Savage Hunger. The fierce hurt from last year.

Since this is elite sport, inevitably there was much we’d heard before. Croke Park is the loneliest place in the world when you lose. But All-Ireland final day was also described in a novel way: “It was lovely. We met early and had chats.”

Nicole Owens spoke emotionally of her battle with depression but also more openly than we are used to of the power of dressing room fellowship and her other friends’ jealousy of the tight bonds she’d built through football.

“Knowing that people have your back and that you are valued within a team as more than just a player on the pitch but as a person; that’s massive.”

Lauren Magee’s need to be reassured that her brand of aggression was okay reminded of Eimear Ryan’s brilliant essay on camogie The Fear of Winning, which in one piece teased a dozen angles in need of exploration.

Eimear admitted her sport was the only context in which she had ever been praised for aggression and proposed the theory that, for women, the fear of winning can be as great as the fear of losing.

“Winning creates expectations. Winning demands you do better next time, win again and again. Losing is easy and comfortable; everyone knows how. Winning requires arrogance, something which girls are typically socialised against at a young age. Oh no, I’m desperate. State of me. Would you stop, it’s from Penneys.”

That fear is Dublin’s to overcome now. Mary White’s great book  Relentless is is full of pointers on how Cork beat it, with a humility boiled down to its essence by eight-time All-Ireland winner Juliet Murphy.

“We got massive satisfaction by doing so-called monotonous drills and trying to get them as near to perfect as we could but always feeling like we never got it perfect at the same time.”

Dublin’s dressing room looked a pretty humble place too, judging by their willingness to braid each other’s hair.

And when manager Mick Bohan told them to empty themselves before it would be “next man in, next man in”, the language police didn’t escort him away. These women had bigger battles on.

Maybe a fly on the wall — or anyone who has served in a workplace full of women — might have expected more conflict, more of an edge.

Eimear Ryan tackled that one too.

“There’s very little drama on camogie teams,’ a former mentor said to me. His tone was puzzled; he was trying to reason it out. And he’s right.

“Camogie teams rarely suffer from the issues that plague team sports — no egos, no feigned injuries, no punching, no mouthing. There is a grim sense of getting on with it. Camogie players don’t engage in drama because we have no audience.”

For the sake of controvassy, that might just be a monster worth creating.

There was something for men too in Blues Sisters, since there always has to be something for the lads.

Maybe even something to civilise us in this age of toxic masculinity.

We have heard plenty of Irish Mammy and her forbearance with feckless offspring. The fraught relationship between father and son has been storied into cliché. But a little neglected has been the bond between dad and daughter.

It was given a face here by former Dublin player Johnny Magee, who never won an All-Ireland, but travelled everywhere with Lauren admitting he wanted one more than ever for her.

And it was captured poignantly by Sinead Finnegan, who missed out on Dublin’s 2010 win because her dad had died. He had been so wrapped up in her football life, it was too painful without him.

She recalled his reaction on a day she’d been taken off with Dublin, having “had a stinker”.

“Sinead, I thought you were great’. I couldn’t do anything wrong in his eyes.”

I put on Blues Sisters for the six-year-old who can do no wrong. Not the full hour, the last 15 minutes from when Dublin warmed up in the Croke Park gym, kicking against the wall, the same routine she has just started down in the club hall.

She already takes massive satisfaction getting a drill near to perfect. But she doesn’t like the training games. Aggression hasn’t yet surfaced.

When Sinead Goldrick and Noelle Healy and the rest moved on to press-ups, she dropped to the floor with them, in front of the telly. When Sarah McCaffrey nailed the goal that broke Mayo’s resistance, she jumped up in celebration. She danced along to Dog Days.

She’ll need to be talked out of supporting Dublin, as a matter of urgency. But the support and encouragement Dublin have given to her and thousands of small girls is priceless.

That and a few more recognisable faces to hang our angles on.

It was a bold and risky move, to invite the camera in, one that could have backfired. It was different, different class.

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox

LOTTO RESULTS

Saturday, December 4, 2021

  • 7
  • 10
  • 26
  • 27
  • 35
  • 43
  • 12

Full Lotto draw results »