From yesterday's Irish Times. The programme in question is on tv tonight.
Pat Comer's splendid television study on the hAilpn brothers, showing tomorrow night, is not to be missed, writes Tom Humphries
It was 40 degrees in Melbourne yesterday. Carlos and the Zak Dog, as they are known locally, got up early for the usual ding-dong.
The regime starts early and taxes them hard. Unrelentingly the rooster crows with the break of dawn on the six days a week that they train. Three sessions a day usually. Boxing in the mornings from 6.30 to 7.15. A break for an hour or 90 minutes. Get some massage or some food, then training at 9.30 for two-and-a-half hours of skills.
Mainly they do kicking and catching and working on timing but there's a lot of running in between, just getting themselves tired so the fatigue can replicate the conditions of AFL games.
They do a lot of drills, and warm-up work alone takes 40 minutes or so. Stretch, run, sprint, jog, etc. By the time they're really into it an hour has passed and soon it's time for the warm-down and another stretch.
At 12.0 they're away for lunch and then back to the club for conditioning: bounding and bouncing, glutes work, core-stability work. That takes till almost four o'clock. Monday. Wednesday and Friday.
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings it's a swim and then on afternoons pilates. Slightly lighter days.
No rest on Saturdays. Up at 7.0 to head to Sandringham for the weekly biathlon work. Up the hilly cliff then running along the dirt track, up hills and down dunes. Then swim out 300 yards, swim back, run the track for 15 minutes, swim again, run again, swim again, run again.
Sometimes the running is replaced with biking. Either way it hurts.
Then finally they fall into the arms of Sunday.
The AFL season is two months away but Setanta and Aisake hAilpn are steaming towards it with the familial trademarks of good grace and heroic determination.
Last night their brother, Sen g, started back training with the Cork hurlers. New year. New coach. The usual rain and muck after a day at work. Sen g threw the kitbag into the car and headed off in the darkness knowing he would have to cope not just with the slog but with the fact of having been described as "babe-allicious" in a Sunday paper this week.
The context was a preview of Pat Comer's splendid documentary about the hAilpns, Tall, Dark and hAilpn , a film which is, strangely for a family who have become such fixtures in the national imagination, a study of constant journeying. Comer's unblinking eye followed Sen g not just through a hurling season but home to the Fijian island of Rotuma.
Often lazily we hang our aspirations about multiculturalism on families like the hAilpns, congratulating ourselves on the miracle of seeing young men with brown skin playing hurling in Croke Park.
Sen g's journey home, after 19 years, into the culture he came from, to a place where his relations are surprised he has runners and where the village has one TV is a study in grace and openness. Every experience and sight is taken and valued with the sincerity we have come to expect of the man. And every story he has of the world he comes from is absorbed with reciprocal interest.
When Sen g departs on the back of a small pick-up truck to the airport and then on a propeller lane into the skies you feel an odd tug of emotion and can't help wondering about the journey the hAilpns made to Ireland all those years ago, their memories of the train journey to Cork in the rain and mist and their first sightings of cows.
Were we ever as engaged by the need to hear about their culture as we were to swaddle them in ours?
The other strand of the film follows Setanta and Aisake in Melbourne as they fight for starting places with Carlton. Setanta was dubious at first about the idea of a documentary. Both brothers are still at various stages of their apprenticeships to a sport that has its own mysterious skills and choreography.
"It is frustrating," says Setanta. "You see people doing things that you think you should do. I'm only in my fourth year. They tell me to play my percentages. Do what I'm good at and do what I've been doing. At times it's good to go outside those boundaries though. I reckon if I keep making mistakes and learning from them I'll get there."
Every conversation with an hAilpn highlights the role of their remarkable mother, Emeli, who spent six months in Australia with her boys last year, supplying them with the alpine ranges of food they grew up accustomed to. In Australia too they are surrounded by their own support network.
For Setanta the first year alone in Australia was the toughest, living away from home and the teeming family quarters in Blarney. He lived with a Melbourne family and he still heads over to Kerryn Banston's home for dinner two or three times a week.
Then Aisake arrived and things improved. Somebody to talk to all the time. They speak Fijian among themselves and Irish the odd day in case it goes rusty. Insulation against the bad days, of which there are still a few.
"There's been a few hard ones all right," says Setanta. "When you're trying to break onto the team there's just days when you think you're miles away or times when you play a couple of games and know you haven't gone well. You're training away and not hitting your targets. You wonder - is this game above me?
"I had a day that sticks out. We played Box Hill last year early on and we were up by 100 points and I was in the back line and my man kicked two goals on me. About the only player that scored for them was my man. He got out and marked three or four balls ahead of me. We were up and I was struggling. I'm thinking, we're up 100 points and I can't mark one guy.
"That was a low but I tell myself if I keep grinding away at the stone it will turn soon. Hope is the big thing. If I have a bad day I reassess what I have to do and work harder. They're telling me they want to play me in the back line. It's a far cry from corner forward. They find the best position to play a guy coming into the game is the back line. You face the ball."
Defence is new to him but on one of his 11 first-team appearances last summer he caused a stir with his play on Barry Hall of Sydney. He'll be a full back or centre back this season.
Tadhg Kennelly has been another support through hard times. They speak several times a week and watch each other's games on tape. Setanta watches out of sheer admiration, Tadhg in a mentoring role. "I admire him so much. From the first day I set foot here, he's been nothing but great help. He flew down here to meet me. I appreciate it very much."
Setanta and Aisake try to pass on what Kennelly has given them by staying in touch with Colm Begley and Martin Clarke.
Aisake and Setanta stayed in Melbourne for the Christmas and were joined there by their siblings, one of whom, Teu, has made the move permanent. It's hard to imagine what reflections and memories they shared of their remarkable lives as a family.
Home though is still Cork.
"If I did finish up here the first thing I'd love to do would be come back and play hurling and football for Cork," says Setanta. "That was the only thing on my mind growing up. As life goes on your priorities change. Now I'm here I'd still love that."
His contract ends at the end of this year and as usual he's philosophical. He had 11 first-team starts last year. His target this year is "as many as possible". Then he'll see.
"If I just concentrate on my football, each week, everything should fall into place. I'll play as many as possible and see where it takes me. Train hard now and let everything else fall into place.
"With Aisake there's a massive improvement. His ball skills have stepped up hugely. It takes a lot of time. You have to be patient."
The journeying goes on. Training in Fermoy. Training in Melbourne. Spanning cultures and representing the best of each.
Tall Dark and hAilpn goes out tonight at 10.15pm on RT One.