The Toughest Summer
The Toughest Summer

For many people across Ireland, the summer starts and ends with the All-Ireland Championship. This year, however, with stadiums shut, the championship was postponed until winter and the biggest challenge the community faced wouldn’t be on the field - it would be off it. “The Toughest Summer” is the story of a summer where sport took a backseat, and local support came to the fore. Told over five online episodes and a feature-length documentary, featuring well-known local GAA personalities, the campaign highlights how GAA communities throughout the country faced the toughest summer of their lifetimes and emerged from it stronger.

In order to capture the 2020 series, Rothco, part of Accenture Interactive had to put the brief forward to award-winning documentary director, Ross Whitaker and production company, Antidote - to shoot the series safely during the lockdown. Adhering to the numerous and ever-evolving COVID-19 production protocols, the team successfully shot the series in over 16 different counties.

They spoke to as many players, club players, coaches, volunteers, fans and committee members as they could to better understand the challenges and the commitments that people make to try and achieve success. Amongst stories of passion, determination and inclusivity, the thing unanimously heard was that it didn’t matter what had to be done or how tough it became because, in those moments, the values instilled in people by the GAA allowed them to overcome any challenge.

The five online episodes will be released online weekly from Thursday July 23rd, with the feature length documentary set to air on RTÉ One in late August.

The Toughest
The Toughest

Back in 2013, the AIB and Rothco, part of Accenture Interactive set out to prove to the world that the fans and the clubs in the GAA are tougher than any professionals on the planet - and they’ve since achieved that. In the first three years, ‘The Toughest’ pitted NHL, NFL, professional rugby players, professional cricket players and more against amateur GAA players with ‘The Toughest Trade’. Since then, they’ve delved into every aspect of the game - from challenging legendary football pundits Jeff Stelling and Chris Kamara to commentate on the games, to Premier League football managers Harry Redknapp and Gianluca Vialli managing GAA teams.

Now in its seventh year, The Toughest is an all-encompassing GAA platform that represents county players, club players, coaches, volunteers, fans and committee members who keep the sport alive. However, it was forced to take on a new significance in 2020 as they faced their toughest ever summer due to the impact of COVID-19.

Ray Swan, creative director at Rothco, part of Accenture Interactive comments: “AIB’s #TheToughest has always been about documenting the passion, tenacity and indomitable spirit of the GAA both on and off the pitch. We’ve always had the cameras rolling, never fully knowing the outcome of any particular piece of work we were creating. “The Toughest Summer” is no exception.

“Documenting the GAA in a time when there are no games - right through the summer, from the deserted pitches, right through to the tentative return to training. It’s not a COVID-19 story – it’s a GAA story. It’s a story about the bonds that tie the community together. Bonds that, when tested, become even stronger. We still don’t know how it will end. No one does. And that’s testament to the great relationship we have with our friends in AIB – we’re one team on this.”

Michael Dargan, Head of Consumer Marketing at AIB comments: “AIB’s #thetoughest campaigns have gone from strength to strength over the years and this year has been no exception, despite it being the toughest yet for GAA and for sport sponsorship in general. We are thrilled to be launching this campaign with Rothco and Ross, to bring a unique insight into how GAA players, supporters and communities across the island of Ireland have risen to the challenges of 2020 and displayed the toughness and humanity needed to emerge stronger than ever. The art and craft of storytelling has been captured by Ross in a truly magical manner and we are proud to be able to bring these stories to people in both short-form and long-form across linear broadcast, social, and on-demand channels. We continually ask our creative partners to find ways to break with convention and this year they have pushed the creative envelope further than ever with this latest work.”