Gemma Creagh leads the cheer for Tanya Doyle’s latest documentary Eat / Sleep / Cheer / Repeat 

Fake tan, false eyelashes and astonishing physical feats executed to near perfection are all par for the course for one elite group of glamorous Galwegians. Filmed over five years, Eat / Sleep / Cheer / Repeat follows the lives of a cohort of young cheerleaders as they train to take on the world – and make sure they look good doing it. Led by an invested mentor, coach Hilton (who looks like he needs a stiff drink and/or a hug for the duration of the film), it’s clear Team Ireland have a lot of work to do. Hilton implores that their fitness, choreography, and commitment all need serious effort and the clock is ticking down to the World Championships in Orlando. Can Team Ireland be ready in time?

Eat / Sleep / Cheer / Repeat is a testament to their craft and graft. These are not the entitled youth of privilege. They are dedicated young men and women struggling to forge a path and are balancing training with part time jobs, romance, friends, studying and family responsibilities but yet are still expected to raise funds just to raise the means to cross the Atlantic. As individuals, these underdogs must fight their personal battles too; Blathnaid is dyslexic and trying to plan for her future and Rickie is torn between cheer and his job as a barman, and can’t commit the hours. When he misses too many practices, he’s dropped from the main line up. 

As the timeline draws closer to the competition, injuries, conflicts, stress, and the constant looming threat of COVID throw a toolbox of spanners into Hilton’s plans. Then things go from bad to worse when their star athlete Jayleesa contemplates dropping out of the competition because her decision not to be vaccinated means she won’t be able to travel to America. Finally as Team Ireland arrive, hopeful and terrified, to Orlando, the lights, the music, the spectacle and the imposing pressure from the competing teams, all lead to a thrilling and tense third act. 

What this film does perfectly is capture that precocious period just before adulthood, that moment where you’re figuring out who you are and who you want to be. Where anything is possible and the overwhelming nature of the adult world looms large. The team all share their experience with gender, sexuality, and personal identity, finding support in their camaraderie and friendship. This story serves as a microcosm for the problems facing women’s athletics. So often young women who have dedicated years to their sport of choice, drop out as teenagers. This is just at that time in their lives when they most need the confidence and the support system that comes with it. 

In their local Supervalu, as Team Ireland pack shopping bags, arguing amongst themselves as the best place to put the eggs, there’s an interesting exchange. In the bid to raise funds, Hilton is quick to point out to a half-sceptical local that this sport is not recognised the way it should be. There are no resources for them to access. He’s explaining the sheer scope of what they do, and the level of dedication and ability required. This older man nods politely as he shuffles to the door. But the implication is clear: because this is a predominantly women’s field it’s minimised, or in some instances ridiculed. Eat/Sleep/Cheer/Repeat is an anecdote to attitudes, and showcases the sheer strength and power behind the skilled cheer routines which celebrate the feminine and the queer.

Being a lecturer as well as award winning documentarian, Tanya Doyle brings empathy to every frame. There is such deference and warmth in the observation of these young subjects, which likely explains the level of access in Eat/Sleep/Cheer/Repeat. Tanya leads a team that gains such intimate insight into the extended worlds of these young people. DOP Eleanor Bowman (Lies We Tell) once again brings her incredible eye to document moments big and small so cinematically, delivering a vivid aesthetic to the film that honours the form. 

There are absolutely no mean girls in this squad. Eat/Sleep/Cheer/Repeat is a joyous celebration with twists, terms and back flips that will leave you cheering. 

Eat / Sleep / Cheer / Repeat is in cinemas from 17th May 2024

Podcast: Tanya Doyle, Director of ‘Eat / Sleep / Cheer / Repeat’ 


Gemma Creagh is a writer, filmmaker and journalist. In 2014 she graduated with a First from NUIG’s MA Writing programme. Gemma’s play Spoiling Sunset was staged in Galway as part of the Jerome Hynes One Act Play series in 2014. Gemma was one of eight playwrights selected for AboutFACE’s 2021 Transatlantic Tales and is presently developing a play with the Axis Theatre and with the support of the Arts Council. She has been commissioned to submit a play by Voyeur Theatre to potentially be performed in Summer 2023 as part of the local arts festival. Gemma was the writer and co-producer of the five-part comedy Rental Boys for RTÉ’s Storyland. She has gone on to write, direct and produce shorts which screened at festivals around the world. She was commissioned to direct the short film, After You, by Filmbase and TBCT. Gemma has penned articles for magazines, industry websites and national newspapers, she’s the assistant editor for Film Ireland and she contributes reviews to RTE Radio One’s Arena on occasion.

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