As Connacht head into their second year of Heineken Cup rugby this weekend, a special documentary on last year’s emotional first journey into Europe’s elite competition is compulsive viewing.
Last night TG4 aired the hour-long programme, produced by Kieran Hartigan of Iris Productions, but for those who missed it, the documentary will be repeated on Saturday evening at 11.30pm.
The West's Awake: Rugbaí Chonnacht is a “fly-on-the-wall” documentary of Connacht’s first Heineken Cup campaign - a competition that remains the Holy Grail for the western province.
Indeed Connacht’s place in the world and in rugby - on the “outer edge of Europe”- is what makes this story so fascinating. Add in coach Eric Elwood, the heart and soul of Connacht Rugby for a quarter of a century, a group of players who believe in themselves and their province against the odds, and a fiercely loyal band of supporters, and this documentary screams emotion.
Kieran Hartigan and his crew followed Connacht on their odyssey to London, Gloucester, and Toulouse and were given unprecedented access to the dressing room - the result of which is uncensored honesty.
Appropriately it opens with Connacht’s most capped player Michael Swift who has made his home in the west, includes interviews with players and rugby analysts, but ultimately it is Elwood and the behind the scenes footage that captures the imagination and reveals most about Connacht’s desperate need to get a win in this most elite of rugby competitions.
Kieran Hartigan says the documentary is first and foremost a sports documentary.
“It is what it is - a documentary about a sports team, but it is one that has a great universal theme - working against the odds, triumph in the face of adversity.
“It shows the level of physical and emotional commitment that these modern-day gladiators need to compete at the highest levels of their sport - it is excruciatingly honest.”
“Finally I think it speaks to a sense of belonging, to being ‘of’ this place, Connacht. This is nowhere more evident than in the story of Eric Elwood. His pride in where he comes from, his passion for his team and his ambition for Connacht Rugby shine through our story.”
Eighty hours of footage have been reduced to just 60 minutes of a well told and compelling story - all the more poignant given Elwood’s recent decision to step down at the end of the season for family reasons.