Dublin football legend Philly McMahon and Comedian Rory O'Connor (Rory’s Stories) are joining forces to run a unique educational and sports programme in Mountjoy Prison. Their goal is to take a group of prisoners and try to turn them into a competitive football team. Their journey will be documented in the new series Gaelic in the Joy.

Beidh Philly agus Rory ag obair le 12 seachtain le grúpa príosúnach a bhfuil mar bhaill den 'Progression Unit' i bPríosún Mhuinseo agus ag iarraidh iad a thabhairt le chéile ní amháin mar fhoireann peile ach mar dhaoine chomh maith. Beidh siad ag iarraidh muinín agus féinmheas a spreagadh i measc na rannpháirtithe agus léargas a thabhairt ar na mórfhadhbanna a bhaineann le meon an phobail i leith coire agus úsáid drugaí i measc rudaí eile. Chomh maith leis sin, beidh léargas ar fáil sa chlár ar éifeacht coire ar na híospartaigh agus an córas polaitíochta taobh thiar den chóras príosúin. Dar le Rory, bhí sé ríthábhachtach an dá thaobh sin a fhreastal "Everyone in the show has a story to tell from both sides" Thar an tsraith beidh siad ag ullmhú na rannpháirtithe chun cluiche caide a imirt i gcoinne gardaí an phríosúin ar fhód beannaithe Pháirc an Chrócaigh.

Football training in the Mountjoy prison yard

Both Rory and Philly have used their platforms over the last number of years to speak out about various important issues in society drawing on their own experiences. McMahon has for years been an advocate for understanding and support for those suffering from addiction and also has done incredible work to challenge stereotypes and assumptions about people from disadvantaged backgrounds. ‘The idea was to put something out there that will, to an extent, challenge perspectives.

I also hope people will see it and realise ‘prison is not a nice place, it’s not a place you want to go and if we don’t help people who are going down that path, getting involved in crime, etc. they’ll keep ending up back in there’.

Rory has been an outspoken advocate on the issue of mental health, especially in the context of men’s mental health. Rory’s honesty and vulnerability around his own mental health journeys have been a source of inspiration for people all over the country and even further afield to recognise that they are not alone in their struggles and seek help. That was something that he wanted to bring to the show with him "I wanted to go in and use what I’ve learned myself in terms of resilience and expression to influence these lads to go the right direction if I could. Rory made it very clear why he was so passionate about taking on the show "For me, helping others is what it’s all about"

Philly and Rory visit the prison

Using their experience working as advocates for these vital issues, the two form a powerful pair when it comes to tackling a challenge such as this. Both men were both inspired to take on the task. Philly has been involved in work with prisoners for years, giving talks and facilitating leadership programmes for people in the prison system. "It fits nicely with the work I’ve been doing, trying to get the message out that yes, these people have made bad mistakes and prison is the punishment given but I wanted to shine a light on those men who’ll put their hands up and say ‘I want to change and I don’t want to end up back in here’

Gaelic in the Joy is about much more than a game of football. Rory and Philly will also be exploring the range of issues that surround crime and addiction in Ireland. The show will also be exploring the impact of crime on innocent victims and the reasons why there is an overrepresentation of certain communities among the young men in the prison system. This is a series about second chances, acknowledging the trauma and hurt caused to victims while offering the prisoners a chance at redemption in an unlikely way. It will be an insightful experience for the audience without a doubt and Rory urges everyone to "watch the show with an open mind". There promises to be hard-hitting scenes and heavy moments but the stories from both sides of the narrative are sure to lead to compelling viewing.

Rud a cheanglaíonn an bheirt fhear le chéile chomh maith leis an abhcóideacht atá déanta acu ar cheisteanna deacra thar na blianta ná an ghrá agus an paisean atá ag an mbeirt acu do chluichí CLG. Is iarimreoir le Baile Átha Cliath é Philly le hocht mbonn uile-Éireann agus dhá ghradam ‘All-Star’ buaite aige. Déanann Rory roinnt ábhar meáin shóisialta faoi chúrsaí CLG. ag tabhairt léargas greannmhar, bríomhar agus inaitheanta d’éinne a bhfuil tar éis na gcluichí a imirt ag leibhéal áitiúil riamh. Dar leis an mbeirt acu, fuair siad an-chabhair as a bheith mar bhall do chlub CLG agus iad ag fás aníos agus nuair a tháinig deacrachtaí ina dtreo.

Deireann Philly ‘Football helped me stay away from the drinking, drugs, and crime in my area, sport took me out of that environment. It also helped me develop life skills that kept me on the right path. It was crucial"

Aontaíonn Rory leis sin chomh maith ‘For me I think sport is very powerful in the way it can help keep people on the straight and narrow" Is léir go mbeidh an bheirt fhear ag iarraidh é sin a thaispeáint dos na rannpháirtithe.

Can the men bring the prisoners together as a team?

Rory and Philly both hope that Gaelic in the Joy will have an impact on its viewers, they are both passionate about spreading the message of understanding, not just of the prison system and those who are in it but the impact of crime on victims and society as a whole. Philly (without giving much away) points to a certain moment in episode 2 which promises to be a particularly emotional scene but will serve to hammer home the message of the show ‘There won’t be a dry eye in Ireland that night when people watch the scene’. Gaelic in the Joy’s 3-part series begins tonight.

Gaelic in the Joy airs tonight, Wednesday, at 9:35 pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player