You really would have had to been in Cilin Hill on Saturday night to understand what this phenomenon, Strictly Come Dancing, borrowed from the BBC, is all about.
Over 1500 patrons packed the Kilkenny mart emporium. The judges were Henry Shefflin, Brenda Power (Irish Times), Michael ‘Tich’ Phelan (Mullinavat Chronicle) and Edward Hayden (Morning Ireland resident chef).
Picture the scene! Sixteen couples from the Ballyhale Shamrocks and Mullinavat GAA clubs were in serious training under the tuteledge of the Murphy sisters, Kilmacow over the past 12 weeks. No one risked failure in public.
The dancers showed tremendous courage and determination. All were fit young boys and girls, with some exceptions. They performed to the best of their abilities, and left the rest to providence and the judges. It was hugely entertaining, with excitement at fever-pitch.
Michael Fennelly and James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick got the crowd going with their antics and interviewing skills.
First up was T.J. Reid with his partner from Mullinavat, Rebecca Reade. They performed to the Gene Kelly/Debbie Reynolds classic ‘Singing in the Rain’. The crowd roared as the flying half forward, attired in his Homburg, carrying the trade mark umbrella, and sweeping the delightful Rebecca off her feet, used every inch of the stage to dance their way into the hearts and minds of all.
It was superb. Brenda Power remarked: “It was pure Hollywood. There could have been horrendous mistakes, but T.J. and Rebecca addressed it like pros.”
They earned 32 from a possible 40 marks.
Kilkenny’s minor team manager, Pat Hoban and his partner, Shelly Foskin were next up for a slow waltz to the Nat King Cole number ‘Moonriver’. The first all Mullinavat pairing let rip. Shelly is a nurse in Wexford and wife of Stevie Foskin. They scored 31.
The roof nearly came down when Brendan Conway and Brigid Williams did a Cha Cha to ‘The Witchdoctor’. The celebrated Chef, Edward Hayden (native of Graignamanagh) was enthralled. He adored Brigid’s costume.
“It was pure entertainment, with great characterisation and brilliant interpretation,” he enthused. They scored 34.
Joey Holden and Jenny O’Brien danced to ‘Time Warp’. Henry felt the dance “was electric, energetic; it ticked every box.” He awarded them nine points on the way to 31.
Chairman of the Mullinavat club, Billy Walsh and Roisin Fennelly flew on to the stage for ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’. They bopped, bounced, reversed back flips (Roisin). They bagged an impressive 35 points.
The youngest dancers performed an Egyptian routine. To ‘Walk like and Egyptian’, Mark Mansfield and Clodagh Corcoran had training restricted because of studies, but they let rip. They scored 33.
The next pair fairly melted the stage. When they finished, the crowd erupted. There were two ten-pointers from Edward Hayden and ‘Tich Phelan as they bagged 38 marks, just two short of the full house. Deirdre Aylward and Ciaran Boyle were terrific.
Another All-Ireland star danced with his partner, Leona Kinahan. Colin Fennelly was foot perfect. There was a sensuality to their movement that fired electricity all over the place. Edward Hayden felt it was provocative, a chemistry between the two, as close to Dirty Dancing as was permissible. They danced to the Billy Joe Armstrong composition ‘Time of our Life”. They chalked up a massive 39.
Eoin Knox and Joanne Quinn set the stage on fire with ‘Whenever Wherever’. There was chemistry here too. Brenda Power used the3 word “sexy”. Henry Shefflin concurred. The crowd loved it. Joanne looked stunning. they scored 38.
Clad in a delightful all red creation, the ever so popular Carmel Fennelly was matched with Mick Law to dance to ‘Deanos’ ”Amore”. The crowd willed them on. They didn’t disappoint. Mick was decked out in a red boater, with red trim on his black shirt and matching trousers. They enjoyed themselves. ‘Tich’ was sure they lived and loved every second of the performance. They scored 35 marks.
Tony Duggan and Deirdre O’Brien did a Charleston to the old music hall tune ‘In olden days a glimpse of Stocking’ . One of the lines is if anything goes. Well, they let it go. They got a mark of 35.
Donnacha Fitzpatrick played Shrek to his partner Sarah Kelly. They danced to the Monkees ‘I’m a Believer’. Sarah had terrific balance and was light on her feet. They could have to be well pleased with their performances. They got 33 votes from the judges.
Eamonn Aylward and Mags Fennelly did the Cha Cha to the track ‘Ghostbusters’. It was vibrant, very strong and very ambitious. I felt this pair had a great chance for further glory. There was plenty of action around the stage, and Eamonn’s lifts were superbly executed. They bagged 33 points from the Judges. I would have given much more.
The next pair had an unusual prop. Bob Aylward and Clare Kelly emerged from a coffin before their dance routine to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. It was pure musical theatre, with great movement. It was not an easy routine. Bobby looked spooky. His movement was excellent. They got a great reception and scored 35.
Next up were Keith Murphy and Sineid Madigan. The second they started the crowd was on its feet. ‘Livin La Vida Loca’ had the place rocking. I would have put the allowance on them to win. Brenda Power fwelt: “The performance of the night. They lit up the stage.” She gave them them 10 on the way to a full house.
The last pair, Alan Cuddihy and Miriam Frisby danced beautifully to the air of ‘Scooby Doo’. They were suitably matched, with Alan doing plenty of twists and turns. Miriam floated effortlessly across the stage. Their co-ordination was spot on. They got two tens from Henry and Edward, with a nine and an eight from ‘Tich’ and Brenda.
Three couples were nominated to dance off to decide the winners. The three teams nominated were Billy Walsh and Roisin Fennelly, Keith Murphy and Sineid Madigan and T.J. Reid and Rebecca Reade. They danced their hearts out.
It was serious stuff now. All danced as if their existence depended on winning. Nerve endings were frayed. All the names were bandied about as potential winners. The main sponsor, Paul Holden of Holden Plant Rentals, was on hand to present the winning couple with two magnificent specially crafted crystal vases. MC Michael Fennelly announced “Keith Murphy - you couldn’t hear any more. We consulted our programme. His partner was Sineid Madigan. What a night! What a success story!