Five Northern Ireland sporting documentaries to watch during lockdown

By Matt GaultBBC Sport NI
George Best
'All By Himself' is a feature-length look at the life of celebrated footballer George Best

With the sporting calendar put on hold by the outbreak of coronavirus, we have no live sport on the horizon.

During this global health crisis, we are spending more time in our houses, but that does not mean we have to go without sport.

If you are staying in for the foreseeable future, hopefully these documentaries centred on Northern Irish sporting figures and occasions will help.

George Best: All By Himself

Daniel Gordon's feature-length look at the Belfast boy who took the footballing world by storm is gripping, celebratory and melancholic.

All By Himself charts Best's humble beginnings in Northern Ireland before spotlighting his time with Manchester United.

His European Cup-winning exploits are brought to life through archival footage while there are contributions from Mike Summerbee, Paddy Crerand and the late Harry Gregg.

While Gordon's unflinching portrayal of Best's decline make it tough viewing, it's perhaps the definitive on-screen portrait of the greatest footballer Northern Ireland has ever produced.

Available to watch on the BBC iPlayer.


Michael Dunlop and William Dunlop
Michael Dunlop and his late brother William feature in the engrossing Road

Liam Neeson narrates this engrossing chronicle of the Dunlop family, synonymous with Northern Irish motorcycle road racing.

Road explores the lives of the two pairs of Dunlop brothers, Joey and Robert, and Robert's sons Michael and William, and how they dominated and popularised the sport in Northern Ireland.

It captures, in riveting fashion, Joey's achievements, notably his five consecutive Formula One World Championships between 1982 and 1986.

Of course, their story is as much about tragedy as triumph and, while it's a fascinating insight into the Dunlop dynasty, it effectively conveys the dangers of road racing.

Available on Amazon Prime.

Alex Higgins: The People's Champion

Alex Higgins
Alex Higgins won the World Snooker Championship in 1972 and 1982

"They call him Hurricane, Hurricane Higgins, a quiet man, a confident man. You'd never notice him in a crowd, but in his own twilight world, Hurricane Higgins is almost a god."

The above quote opens this 2010 film examining the rise and fall of two-time World Snooker Champion Alex Higgins.

Narrated by James Nesbitt, The People's Champion is a fascinating dive into one of Northern Ireland's greatest sporting personalities.

Uplifting and poignant in equal measure, footage of Higgins' nerveless break of 69 in the penultimate frame of his World Championship semi-final against Jimmy White is enough to transport you back to 1982.

If that whets your appetite for more snooker, we also recommend the '85 Black Ball Final: Final Frame, a full replay of the climactic frame of the 1985 World Championship final between Steve Davis and Northern Ireland's Dennis Taylor, which is available on the BBC iPlayer.

The Crucible, the hushed crowd, the glasses. Nerve-shredding stuff.

Available on YouTube.

True North - Crossmaglen: Field of Dreams

Oisin McConville
Field of Dreams follows the fortunes of Crossmaglen gaelic football team in their quest for All-Ireland glory

First aired in 2016, Field of Dreams goes behind the scenes at Crossmaglen Rangers to tell the Armagh club's storied history.

The documentary, narrated by BBC Sport NI's Thomas Niblock, follows then joint-managers, Oisin McConville and John McEntee, as they attempt to lead Cross to All-Ireland club success during the 2015/16 season.

With unrivalled access to the senior football squad, Field of Dreams is the definitive story of the most successful GAA club team in Ulster.

Available on YouTube.

The 148th Open Official Film

Open champion Shane Lowry
Shane Lowry lifted the Claret Jug for winning the Open Championship at Royal Portrush in 2019

With this summer's Open Championship at Royal St George's on the back burner until next year, what better time to reflect the memories of when the Claret Jug returned to Northern Ireland.

In July 2019, Royal Portrush hosted golf's oldest major championship for the first time in 68 years.

While it turned out to be a disappointing week for Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut despite a brave Friday afternoon charge, the tournament yielded an Irish champion as Shane Lowry triumphed by six shots over England's Tommy Fleetwood.

Narrated by James Nesbitt - making a second appearance on this list - this hour-long film recalls how Lowry held off the world's best golfers to clinch his maiden major title.

The film captures the highs and lows of a memorable week, from McIlroy's quadruple bogey on his opening hole to Lowry's sensational 63 on Saturday, which helped vault him towards the promised land.

Available for free on The Open website.

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