Why don’t you turn off Love Island and go play some sport instead?

TV review: Cork camogie star Anna Geary tries to assemble an underage ladies football team

Anna Geary is sincere and the teenagers likeable, with no  eye-rolling or adolescent snark

Anna Geary is sincere and the teenagers likeable, with no eye-rolling or adolescent snark

 

The pandemic has potentially spelled the end of the office as we know it and plunged live performance into a nuclear winter. But spare a thought, too, for RTÉ light entertainment, which has been cruelly waylaid by this once in a century public health crisis.

First there was Davey’s Toughest Team, in which Davey Fitzgerald’s mission to lead a group of troubled young men to the basecamp of Everest was replaced by a trek up a hill in Kerry. Now comes Anna Geary’s heartfelt and enjoyable Why Girls Quit Sport (RTÉ Two, 9.30pm), in which the Cork camogie star’s ambition to assemble an underage ladies football team in Ringsend, Dublin is similarly bushwhacked by coronavirus.

Just how Geary overcomes these challenges will be revealed in part two. In the first episode she is concerned with the question of why so many teenage girls give up on sport. The statistics are worrying : female involvement “falls off a cliff” at age 13 and 14 reveals Dr Niall Moyna from DCU. “Getting them to be engaged at that age… we do have a serious problem.”

Geary has a commanding screen presence, combined with the understated steeliness you expect of an elite athlete. And she keeps a cool head going before students at Ringsend Collage in Dublin and looking for volunteers for a football team.

Two dozen or so girls put their hands up. They are a good-natured bunch, though their relationship with sport is not always happy. “I just go home and eat my dinner and watch Love Island,” says one when asked about her exercise regime. “I just think I’m too lazy for it.”

We meet Amber, 13, who gave up swimming a year ago. “I enjoyed it,” she says. “The only sport I do [now] is walking and that isn’t even sport.”

A more cynical documentary might have played up the fish-out-of-water angle as Geary, from bucolic North Cork, tries to bond with these inner city Dublin kids. Instead a very agreeable sweetness comes bubbling through. Geary is sincere and enthusiastic and the teenagers likeable, with none of the eye-rolling or adolescent snark that might that been expected.

And then, weeks before their first game, Covid strikes. With the entire country temporarily confined to quarters, all plans are on ice. A preview of part two confirms that Geary eventually gets the show back on the road. But the real victory, of course, is in convincing these young woman to step away from Love Island and rediscover their love of sport in the first place.