Galway’s sporting heroes whip aspiring jockeys into shapeOctober 16, 2012 - 7:00am
We’ve had reality shows for singers coming out our ears; reality shows for acrobats, would-be hurlers and footballers, ice skaters, dancers and even – in Big Brother – a reality show for people who are nothing at all.
And now TG4 has come up with one for jockeys – a reality show with whips, as they’ve described it, although that might really be more Big Brother’s playground.
The difference between most of this genre and Jockey Eile is simple – this one, like so much of TG4’s output, is superbly made. And it’s also a bit of craic.
What else could it be, of course, given that the Louis Walsh and Simon Cowell of this equine version are none other than Galway hurling legend Joe Connolly and the irrepressible Sean Bán Breathnach?
Two men with a sense of humour so that the rest of us can enjoy the craic; and a sense of perspective so that they don’t get too full of their own importance.
The concept is straightforward enough – JC and SBB take 20 young men and women who dream of becoming jockeys, mentor them through an intensive three-month training process, have them licensed by the Turf Club, and have them compete against each other in a race at Naas to see who wins Jockey Eile.
And our two intrepid Galwegians aren’t just left to their own devices to help these raw recruits become the new Lester Piggott – they can call on top jockeys Kevin Manning and Davy Russell, as well as Suzanne Macken (ex-wife of Eddie) and the wonderfully-named trainer Tucker Geraghty as mentors.
They also have Barry Geraghty’s wife, Paula, to advise them on diet – which for a jockey is presumably 10 ways to serve up a tasty lettuce.
Like all reality shows, the first step was to whittle down the field (excuse the pun) to just 20; some of whom have experience in the saddle, and some who look like they’d fall off a rocking horse.
And even those who made the cut still aren’t safe because there’s a further weeding out before it really gets serious, with the early morning riding out, the diet and the lifestyle all taking their toll.
You no more have to be interested in horse racing to watch this than you’d have to love singing to watch the X-Factor – it’s about people of different temperaments and abilities pushing themselves beyond their limits, cajoled and guided by two men who are passionate about their sport and who are made for television.
Jockey Eile goes out on TG4 on Sunday nights at 8.15pm and is repeated on Fridays.
And Friday is the night as well for a sporting reality series of a different sort – even if it’s more of a six-part horror show than a comedy as it turns out.
For more, read this week's Connacht Sentinel.