WATCH: Trailer For Incredible Brian O’Driscoll Documentary On How Rugby United Ireland

Shoulder to shoulder.

BT Sport Films has confirmed the next instalment in its award-winning, acclaimed films series, Shoulder to Shoulder, which will premiere at 10pm on Friday, 12 October, on BT Sport 2.

Fifty years since the start of The Troubles, the film captures the remarkable history of the Irish national rugby union team, which despite violence, opposition and partition on the island of Ireland, has brought together players and fans from two separate countries and united them to compete as one, on and off the rugby pitch.

BT Sport ambassador, and former Ireland and British & Irish Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll, takes viewers on a powerful journey as he explores how Irish rugby manages to navigate and nurture a successful team through the years of violence that have claimed the lives of more than 3,500 people and divided communities.

The island of Ireland has been divided not just on a map but by politics, history and religion. However throughout it all, the Irish Rugby Union has continued to be the governing body of rugby, leading to the remarkable situation of players from two countries competing as one.

O’Driscoll’s journey focuses on several key events and subject matters including:

  • One of the Darkest Hours: 1972 was one of the bloodiest years of The Troubles and rugby was affected. Visiting international teams were cancelling trips to Dublin in 1972 and the future of the Five Nations Championship was in doubt. One man was determined the violence would not win the day. Willie John McBride – a protestant from the North – took matters into his own hands. He rang his friend David Duckham, the English winger, and implored him to come to Ireland to see the situation for himself, a tactic which paid off. On the day of England’s visit to Dublin the following year (1973) the team received one of the most emotional standing ovations Lansdowne Road has ever experienced.
  • Tragedy: On April 1st 1987 three stars of Irish Rugby came within inches of death following an explosion. Nigel Carr, Phillip Rainey and David Irwin were three friends and rugby aces from Ulster. On that day they were making the journey from Belfast to Dublin to join up for a training session ahead of the inaugural Rugby World Cup. As they crossed the border a bomb exploded. They were not the targets but the three players felt its force, emotionally and physically as it would eventually end Nigel Carr’s playing career. Their quiet dignity earned respect north and south of the border.
  • Croke Park 2007: In 2007 O’Driscoll led his Ireland team out to face England in a Six Nations game, an historic and incredibly emotional moment. Croke Park is the home of the GAA – the Gaelic Athletic Association. It was also at the centre of one of the most violent days in Irish history, Bloody Sunday, the 21st November 1920. After the IRA killed twelve British Intelligence agents and two civilians that morning, British forces responded by opening fire on the fans gathered in the stands for the All Ireland Gaelic football final. Fourteen civilians, including one of the players, died. Add to this the GAA’s rule 42 banning ‘foreign sports’ from GAA property, and it is hard to believe that even in 2007 the “garrison game” of rugby was allowed to be played. The respect ‘God save the Queen’ was given before kickoff is one of the most stirring moments of the documentary.

Simon Green, head of BT Sport, said:

“Shoulder to Shoulder, with its cross over between sport, politics, religion and society at large, is the kind of film which does not come around very often and will become essential viewing for all sport fans and the wider public. The film manages to shed new light on an instantly recognisable sporting institution known the world over, while placing the unique concept that is the Irish rugby union national team into a fresh perspective. As with all of BT Sport Films output, this film goes beyond individual storylines and personalities, to paint a vibrant picture of Irish sporting history.”

The film features interviews with:

  • Willie John McBride – former Ireland and Lions captain
  • Rory Best – Current Ireland captain
  • Trevor Ringland – Former Ireland Rugby player and architect of Peace international with Hugo MacNeill
  • Nigel Carr – Former Ireland player, who speaks about the day a terrorist bomb eventually ended his career
  • Donal Lenihan – Former Ireland captain
  • Hugo MacNeill – Ireland player who worked with Ringland on the peace international.
  • David Irwin – Ireland player who was caught up in the 1987 Killeen bomb, pulling his teammate from the wreckage.

Do not miss this one lads. It promises to be an absolute cracker.

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