Derry star Conor Bradley gets top billing in new Athletics film 'It Runs Deep'

“Hope springs eternal but Conor Bradley knows his best running days are passing him by and he still has not realised the potential he showed as a youth. He’s inspired to have one last go . . .”

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 6:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th April 2021, 6:02 pm

If you’re thinking that pitch has a certain ‘Hollywood’ ring to it, you’d be on the right track but this underdog story is Derry born and bred.

“It Runs Deep’, which premiered on YouTube yesterday, tells the story of one of City of Derry Spartans’ brightest athletic talents of the modern era, his struggles with injury and subsequent attempts to finally realised his huge potential across one memorable season in 2019.

The film is the brain child of Currynierin film director, producer and editor. Eamon Kerrigan, who admits he stumbled upon Conor’s remarkable against the odds story after witnessing one of greatest moments in athletic history.

“Along with my producer, Paul Gormley, we decided we wanted to make an athletics film so went to Vienna to watch Eliud Kipchoge run the 1:59 Marathon challenge,” explains Eamon, “I actually have a photograph of us there and the event planted an idea in our heads.

“We always wanted the film to be athletics based but having seen what some would describe as the pinnacle of running in Vienna, we decided we wanted to go back home and tell a local story about as local athlete.”

Eamon, himself a keen amateur athlete with Derry Track Club, took his idea to renowned local coach Malcolm McCausland who immediately suggested Conor’s story.

“That’s where it grew from. I remembered hearing about Conor Bradley, this athlete who had run some amazing times in 2019, and I was having coffee with Malcolm (McCausland) one night, talking about potential candidates for the project and he suggested Conor.

“When I looked closer it was obvious very quickly that Conor was an amazing runner with such a great story to tell but strangely no one really knows his accomplishments. I read a great piece in the ‘Journal’ recently about Bobby Farren and that struck a cord because there are these great athletes in Derry and no one really knows it outside their immediate clubs.

“Running is so popular in Derry which makes that slightly odd. I pulled on a thread of archive and found there was at least 10 years worth of a story waiting to be unravelled about Conor.

“This is my first documentary so the fire is very much burning. I saw it as a great opportunity to work with two great passions of mine, I love sport, running in particular, and I love film making. It grew from there.

“One thing I have noticed during the making of ‘ItRunsDeep’ was the athletics community and the film-making community have been so supportive. There has been so much support and so many wishing it well, I can’t thank people enough.”

Eamon’s self funded project fuses live action and animation to narrate Conor’s attempt to overcome injury and make the Irish national team for the 2019 European Cross Country Championships and the director reveals Bradley was very much ‘hands on’ with the production of the short film.

“I went to Barcelona with Conor to film,” he adds, “I was on the back of a motorbike going through Barcelona filming. Every day I would show up, film and then that night I would edit bits together and send it to him so Conor has very much been part of the process the whole way through. That also allowed me to gain a great insight into him as a person.

“Malcolm is a massive part of it as well. Conor is the plot but Malcolm really is the exposition. Teresa McDaid, Conor’s coach, she is great in it too. The story expands as it goes along to include all these fascinating characters.

“Just by chance, 2019 was also an unbelievable year for Ireland so we were really able to tie it all together at the end. It has that nice level chance of local, national and then international. There is a nice story out there for the audience.”

The project is Eamon’s first film and having toyed with the idea of launching it through the various film festivals, he decided streaming platform YouTube offered the best chance of reaching the largest audience for a story he hopes believes will resonate with everyone, not just sports fans.

“We were going to go the festival route until Paul (Gormley) said we might have a chance to get it on a streaming platform. For me, I want to show people what I can do as a film-maker but as soon as I set out to make the film, I loved the idea of anyone being able to go and access it and YouTube has some great films on it. For a first film, there is no better place because I simply want as many people as possible to see it.

“Conor was the fastest man in Ireland over 3,000m in 2019 and not many people seem to realise that. If that was a footballer with a similar achievement, we would all have heard of him and been celebrating the achievement.

“I’m a runner, I’m not an athlete and there’s a big difference. This isn’t a running film as such, it really is an athletics movie and you realise there is a big difference when you are in and around these guys on a daily basis.

“As a film maker I like to use illustrations because some things are just easier to covey to an audience through art. It is one of the benefits of being independent, having that freedom. This way I have been able to do the film my way, creatively there was no restrictions.

“There is a beautiful ending, I’ll not give it away but it is quite emotional. I’m very excited to share the film with people.”

‘It Runs Deep’ is FREE to stream on YouTube.