Rough Girls 3 July 2022: Sunday on BBC Four

Rough Girls 3 July 2022: Sunday on BBC Four 11

A century after the formation of the first Northern Irish women’s football team, Derry Girls’ Tara Lynne O’Neill’s debut play, enacted by an all-female cast, chronicles the courage and determination of the women who became known as the suffragettes of soccer.

In Belfast in September 1917, in the midst of World War I and one year after the Easter Rising, a group of women representing the teams Celtic and Distillery got together to play football in front of 16,000 fans at Grosvenor Park. While the men were away at war, the women risked ridicule and rejection by kicking a ball. But the game proved so popular that it was repeated to ever-increasing crowds.

They went on to contest the first women’s international match that same year at the same venue, and carried on playing until the FA ban on women’s football in 1921. One hundred years later, Northern Ireland’s women’s football team qualified for the European Championship for the first time, making history once again.

Oscar Wilde said, ‘Football is all very well as a game for rough girls, but it’s hardly suitable for delicate boys.’ This is the story of those ‘rough girls’.

Rough Girls was filmed for television at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, with a socially distanced audience, for BBC Arts.

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