Sydney Swans star Tadhg Kennelly’s responds to Lakelands football film

The hit Irish film asks what it means to be a man in a macho society that is evolving beyond traditional values.

Former Sydney Swans footballer Tadhg Kennelly has praised the exploration of masculinity and sport in the forthcoming film Lakelands, announced as the Opening Night Premiere at the forthcoming Irish Film Festival Australia in October.

On the surface, Lakelands is a film about Gaelic football, say the films promotors, but ‘at its core it is an exploration of what it means to be a man in a macho society that is evolving from “old” Ireland into a modern society’.

Éanna Hardwicke (Normal People) plays Cian, a small town sports star whose life revolves around training, drinking, friends and farming. When a head injury makes playing impossible, Cian sinks into depression, wondering who he is if he can’t be a star on the pitch. 

Reconnecting with old flame Grace (Danielle Galligan – The Great, Kin, Shadow and Bone), who has returned from London to care for her dying father, gives him the space to be vulnerable, and together they navigate the meaning of ‘home’ in a place where you feel like a stranger. 

Former Sydney Swans footballer Tadhg Kennelly grew up in Ireland, immersed in Gaelic football culture and is now seen as being part of the generation of Irish men changing the idea of what it means to be a man and showcasing positive masculinity, both in his homeland and here in Australia.

‘You could be bulletproof in the football club, but you always had your armour on and couldn’t show any vulnerability,’ Kennelly said.

Losing his Swans coaching role during the Covid disruptions brought on a period of depression.

The support he got from friend David Eccles, prompted the pair to form a men’s wellbeing group, When No One’s Watching – WNOW. ‘We wanted to create a safe and supportive space for men to connect and explore what it means to be better men in our communities,’ Kennelly said.

Lakelands is the feature debut for writers and directors Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney, picking up the Best Film Award at the 2022 Galway Film Fleadh and Kerry International Film Festival.

Kennelly coaching in July 2018. Image: Wiki Commons.

Irish Film Festival Australia Director Enda Murray said: ‘Lakelands is a fresh, coming-of-age film from modern small town Ireland that delicately deals with a past steeped in tradition and its impact on mental health. Stunningly shot and movingly told, it features a stellar rising star lead cast in Éanna and Danielle.’

Lakelands has been chosen as the Opening Night Premiere of the 9th Irish Film Festival Australia in October. More information.

Paul Dalgarno is author of the novels A Country of Eternal Light (2023) and Poly (2020); the memoir And You May Find Yourself (2015); and the creative non-fiction book Prudish Nation (2023). He was formerly Deputy Editor of The Conversation and joined ScreenHub as Managing Editor in 2022. X: @pauldalgarno. Insta: @dalgarnowrites