Ma Mary and Aunt Sarah are the unsung heroes of Derry Girls

The marvellous mammies are every inch as funny as their wonderful wains, says Sarah Doran
By Sarah Doran

For the past few weeks the teenage stars of new comedy Derry Girls have taken Channel 4 by storm, but the fourth episode of Lisa McGee’s almost too good to be true series finally gave two of the show’s funniest females the chance to really shine.


Ma Mary (Tara Lynne O’Neill) and Aunt Sarah (Kathy Kiera Clarke) have had their fair share of stunning one-liners throughout the series but the pair put in their best performance to date as they recoiled in horror at the idea that their father might have a new woman in his life.

The storyline – which ran alongside Erin’s struggle to come to terms with the fact that “poor Ukrainian girl” Katya was far smarter and more sophisticated than she expected – saw Mary growing suspicious after she clocked Joe winking at mass.

And when she found out he’d been in the bakery buying two buns – an apple turnover and a cream horn to be precise - she knew something was up.

“You couldn’t pay you to eat a cream horn,” said a shocked Sarah, whose exasperation only increased as she learned her father had exited the bakery and “turned up Pump Street”. The pair’s subsequent interrogation of their father was painfully funny, and sharply punctuated by Erin's question about the precise station of the cross at which her grandfather had first encountered his “fancy woman”.

Granda Joe (Ian McElhinney) finds himself in trouble when Mary (Tara O'Neill) catches him winking in Mass (Channel 4)

Kathy Kiera Clarke, whose portrayal of the seemingly aloof Sarah has been nothing short of delightful from day one, very nearly stole the scene.

“Winking, at your age? Christ, I feel sick,” she gasped, staring down at the table. But Tara Lynne O’Neill’s perfectly pitched pious anger kept the pair on par.

“Our poor mother is barely cold and you’re straight back out there, winking away,” she fumed, before leaving the kitchen in a teenage strop worthy of Erin and her pals.

Ian McElhinney showed his pedigree as the beleaguered Joe, who arrived home with Maeve to discover his daughters had erected a shrine to their dead mother in the living room. Their marvellous mournful protest put the unflappable head of the house on the back foot for once.

“Gerry’s name is on the house, not me da’s, if that’s what your thinking,” barked Mary, while Sarah wondered if the 62-year-old was in search of a “sugar daddy”. And as if the black suits and sullen stares weren’t enough of a statement, Mary wasted no time in letting Maeve know they’d “never call you mammy”.

Their revulsion put paid to Joe’s rosary romance as Maeve broke things off – but not before passing on the number of the hairdresser responsible for her cracker blow-dry to Sarah – leaving the grumpy granddad looking very vulnerable for the first time. Joe's ode to the lost love of his life in the episode’s final scene was nothing short of beautiful.

The story may have played second fiddle to Erin and co's adventures (don't tell me you didn't get up and dance to Whigfield's Saturday Night when the gang went to that party), but it gave the grown-ups of Derry Girls more than enough time to prove they're every bit as funny as their wayward wains.


Derry Girls continues on Channel 4 on Thursday nights at 10pm

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