Underdogs made its eagerly anticipated return last night for the opening episode of the new season as Valerie Mulcahy, Kevin Cassidy and Mickey Ned O'Sullivan selected their panel to build towards the ultimate challenge of playing Mayo.
Over six weeks, the squad will be whittled down to a 28-man group. The TG4 show combines footballing insight with real life stories to make for a comprehensive program. The star of Thursday's show was a testament to that.
Israel Ilunga came to Ireland from the Democratic Republic of Congo to escape civil unrest and rebellion. The Westmeath man explained that he arrived with nothing but was placed in a foster home and quickly found a loving family.
I never knew were Europe was. I couldn't read or write. To be honest, I never looked at a map. I never knew where Ireland was.
They say you don't choose family, you are born into it. But they choose me, it is outrageous. I am always thankful. I am always proud to be one of their kids.
"From a young age, he has always said he is Irish. I was born to be Irish. There is a reason I came over here, the reason was to play Gaelic," his father explained.
Both Israel and the show proved a hit.
Just watching #underdogstg4. Interesting stories and beautifully shot. Great show last year, been looking forward to this. Class autumn viewing.
— Ben ‘Backstrop’ Archibald (@benarchibald) September 12, 2019
Israel Ilunga tells his story and still just laughs it off, what incredible young man.#underdogstg4
— Ruairi Coyle (@RuairiC12) September 12, 2019
1st episode of new series of #UNDERDOGSTG4 & I'm totally hooked, I didn't realise how much I missed this programme. Good luck to everyone brave enough to take part but especially those from the @Armagh_GAA clubs. Bring on @MayoGAA ☺
— fiona grant (@Rma13Fiona) September 12, 2019
The defender's footballing ability was immediately apparent. "That's the standard", said an onlooking impressed Mickey Ned O'Sullivan.
Having encountered some heinous treatment on the field in the past, Ilunga cut a content figure when he was told he was on the squad.
"I don't want to be known as the kid who was racially abused. I just want to play football, the game that I love."
Is iad muintir Israel an dream ba mhó a thacaigh leis ar an bpáirc peile.
'Underdogs' ag tosú anocht 21.30 @TG4TV @westmeath_gaa @rosemountgaa @leinstergaa @ADAREtelly #UnderdogsTG4 pic.twitter.com/dBLATfmkmE
— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) September 12, 2019