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'Normal People' Is A Massive Step Forward In The Depiction Of GAA

'Normal People' Is A Massive Step Forward In The Depiction Of GAA
By Donny Mahoney

Episodes Three and Four of 'Normal People' air tonight on RTÉ. The programme has been a very timely distraction during otherwides pandemical times. After just two episodes, the programme has already asserted itself  as the most compelling portrayal of Irish young adulthood. While the sexual content from Episode 2 titillated the Liveline set, the show has also advanced the cultural dialogue around GAA, and brought gaelic football to new audiences (the most vocal one being horny young people in the UK and the US).

One of the most interesting changes between the novel and the programme is that Connell is described a talented football player in the book but in the TV adaptation, we see him as a GAA player. For an Irish audience, this is a critical tweak. The best and worst traits Connell displays in the first four episodes of the programme feel deeply rooted in his GAA identity. As Connell struggles to reckon with his emotions for Marianne, it's anguishing to watch him come up against the limits of the emotional vocabulary that a life in the GAA has provided him with. Among other things, the show can be read as an Irishman's struggle define himself outside of the GAA.

Obviously, much of the Connell's authenticity as a GAA player come from the fact that Paul Mescal, who plays Connell, himself grew up in the world of Kildare GAA.

After four episodes, the show has featured a single gaelic football match, as Connell's school defeated a rival. Connell wore #10 and scored a crucial goal in his school's victory. Like everything during the Sligo episodes, it was a believable sequence.

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The programme has already given one UK celeb a greater affinity to the GAA. Reverend Richard Coles, formerly of the Communards, is now an honorary members of St Finbarr's in Cork after tweeting about his ignorance of the sport.

 

 

One of the more daring gambits of the programme is of course asking viewers to imagine a half-decent footballer coming from Sligo.

 

From Episode 4, the programme captures Connell's difficulties fitting in with the poshos at Trinity. Weirdly, he seems to abandon his budding GAA career. Trinity, of course, has its own gaelic team and one imagines he would have discovered other like-minded culchies amongst its ranks.

But if Twitter is anything to go by, the show's most lasting contribution to our appreciation of the GAA will have been the full-scale eroticisation of O'Neill's GAA shorts.

Compared with the ground hurling captured in the beginning of 'The Wind Shakes The Barley' or the brief football sequence in 'Michael Collins', 'Normal People' feels like a massive step forward for the depiction of GAA life. We're often told the GAA is not just a game, it's culture. In its own subtle way, 'Normal People' puts that culture under the microscope.

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