“It’s especially great to see that sort of female representation in a sport that is so heavily dominated by men.”
Seven Feet Nine and a Quarter Inches is a new short documentary detailing one Dublin girl’s defiance of gender stereotypes in the sporting world. It’s also the exact distance between a darts player and their board, a measurement that any seasoned sportsman or woman will be all too familiar with.
Katie Sheldon is one of those players. A teenager from Dublin, Katie has been turning heads in the darts world ever since she picked up her first set. Directed by Peter O’Brien, the short documentary follows the 15 year old and her team mates as they prepare for the Junior World Championships in Gibraltar.
Throughout the film Katie dominates what is traditionally known as a male sport associated with beer bellies and pork scratchings. There is no separate competition for girls, so she plays alongside the boys, confronting gender expectations and lending support to her team mates when they need it.
The film started how all good stories start, says Peter – in the pub. “I was watching the Champions League with some friends and at the end of the match all of the screens in the pub turned off,” he tells Her. “We were all wondering what was going on and then a live stream of their own dart board comes on the screen.
“Suddenly this tournament starts happening, and there’s these local teams playing darts. It was something I’d never seen before, the sense of community and the camaraderie, it was all very lovely and inclusive. I thought, there has to be a documentary in this.”
So, Peter started looking into it; the local darts tournaments, the community aspect, the scale on which they’re played in Ireland. It wasn’t long before he stumbled across the youth game, and the fact that at the time, the top four youth dart players in Europe were from Ireland.
“Katie’s an amazing character, it’s clear that she’s going to be huge,” he says. “What grabbed us was that she’s so naturally funny, she’s a captivating person. She backs up her personality with huge skill, she has total control of her game. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to feature her.”
Seven Feet Nine and a Quarter Inches received a special mention for Best Documentary Short at its World Premiere at Cork International Film Festival, and next month it’s set to hit screens at the Dublin International Film Festive.
“It’s gotten a really good response so far,” says Peter. “If you haven’t seen these tournaments, you never would’ve thought they existed. It’s especially great to see that sort of female representation in a sport that is so heavily dominated by men.”