by Paraic Collins
Tonight TG4 will air an observational documentary on Connacht rugby’s maiden Heineken Cup run and the up’s and down’s of the journey. In effect, it’s a no-holds-barred, emotional roller-coaster that delves into the passion and commitment of the players and, in particular Connacht Head Coach Eric Elwood, who takes centre stage in a piece of film released, a week after the former Ireland player announced he’s departing at the end of the current 2012/2013 season.
The ‘West’s Awake’ – not the most original name, was part-financed by TG4 and produced by Kieran Hartigan who was given unlimited access to the players and coaches, so much so, that he collected over 80 hours of footage, which had to be edited down to a single hour for TV.
Hartigan expertly captures the emotion and passion associated with a team low on morale, courtesy of a 14 game losing streak and the ecstasy of that famous home win over Harlequins, the last game of the group.
On that rain-soaked night Connacht and Elwood had done the unthinkable and won a first ever game in the Heineken Cup, and maybe the former out-half has since realised the enormity of the task at hand, not to mention the strains that come with the job.
Evidently, in the documentary Elwood is, at times, clearly stressed, emotive and obsessively passionate about his job with Connacht. On more than one occasion there are tears from the coach as his team swell him with pride or disappointment. Yes, there is a swear word or two, but that’s what you come to expect in a heated dressing room.
It’s a timely documentary for many reasons, Elwood’s departure notwithstanding. Hartigan takes us back to 2003 when the IRFU were close to disbanding Connacht rugby. Players past and present marched on the IRFU’s offices in Dublin which forced those at Irish rugby headquarters into a U-turn, and that incident is still relevant today. The IRFU are still at odds as to what will become of Connacht rugby.
Perhaps this documentary will help give fans and observers an insight into Connacht rugby and their on and off-field issues; player contracts, player recruitment and now the search for a head coach begins in earnest. Whoever takes the reigns from Elwood must be clued into the passion and commitment necessary to carry the burden and weight of expectations that surround a small franchise who dream of being a big one.
The West’s Awake