Teenage kicks: Damien, Calvin, Sherisse, Bressie, Kelsey and Nathan, stars of the RTE television documentary series Bressies Teenage Kicks
IT is well known that in a life before music and television, Bressie had a considerable sporting career that included a contract with Leinster rugby.
What isn’t well known is how close Niall Breslin came to signing for Munster in the early 2000s when Alan Gaffney returned to the province.
“My relationship with Limerick started in my rugby days. Not a lot of people know this, but when I played with Leinster, I was very, very, very close to signing with Munster,” he told the Limerick Leader in an extensive interview to promote new RTE television series Bressie’s Teenage Kicks, which was filmed in Limerick.
“When Alan Gaffney left Leinster, he brought me down and I...at the time Leinster weren’t what they are now, and I was kind of a bit disjointed from Leinster, I didn’t feel the spirit was there that I liked,” said the Mullingar man, who captained the Leinster youths and played for the Irish U21s at the Rugby World Cup in Australia, playing at number 8.
“Alan brought me down and interviewed me and it was two interviews and ‘I am going to play for Munster next year’, and then John Langford got signed instead.
“I remember playing club rugby down there and it was just, there was such a - I don’t have to elaborate on the rugby and what it means down in Limerick and the religious aspect of it.
“For me, at that time, I had given up on rugby and wasn’t enjoying it any more and I really wanted to move to Limerick and Munster could have re-ignited that. So I was pretty heartbroken when Gaffney went with John Langford, which was ultimately the best call,” he laughed.
Bressie gave up on rugby in 2004 after repeat injuries and discovering music, a road that has catapulted him subsequently to stardom.
He is the front of new show Bressie’s Teenage Kicks, filmed over eight months in Limerick this year, the first episode of which aired this week. It depicts his attempts to put together a band - musicians aged between 16-24 - through an open casting, and the subsequent trials, tribulations and successes that follow.
Sensing that rap was strong as a form in Limerick, that is the direction he followed, enlisting Nathan and Calvin from Moyross, Kelsey from St Mary’s Park, Damien from Rhebogue and Sherisse from Southill.
“When I went down there I had no game plan. Was it going to be a band, was it going to be a rock band, pop band? I had no preconceived notions when I went down,” he explained.
“The thing that we realised very quickly was there is an elemental rap scene there. A lot of rappers came in and we ended up putting a rap collective together. I think with rap, certainly in places like Limerick, it is how some of the teenagers actually communicate, it is how they get their point across.”
His passion for Limerick is evident, and it was the only place he wanted to shoot the series with producers Shinawil.
“Through my rugby days and music days, it was always the one city that I felt has the most kind of soul to it, without sounding too cheesy - it is a very authentic place,” he said.
“I am not from Limerick and I used to get quite pissed off at the negative press it used to get all the time. So I thought it might be worth doing something that might highlight that, that there is a lot more to the city than often media give it credit for.”
Bressie, who has been very open about his own battles with mental health issues and has worked as an ambassador for the charity Cycle Against Suicide, explained that the programme was intended to a have serious subject matter at its heart.
“There is a lot to it. For me overall, I think in Ireland we have completely 100% disjointed ourselves from teenagers. We treat them like a separate species and I just find it deeply frustrating,” he said.
“Music was a vehicle, for me it was never at the core of what this was, I am not going down here just to set up a band...It is actually trying to figure out how we communicate with teenagers, how do you highlight that talent can come in many different forms and personality.
“It is a brilliant journey - it wasn’t forced. You get a lot of producers that say ‘we need this, or we need jeopardy’. I said we were going to do it naturally, and let everything happen, and if something comes out of it then good, and that is the risk we have to take. And we did, and it ultimately paid off.”