13 Aug 2022

Yes! It was a Callan tour de force

Yes! It was a Callan tour de force

Yet another monster fund-raising event down South hit the jackpot.

It successfully pulled down the final curtain on a John Lockes (Callan) venture that saw 34 dancers strut their stuff on the stage of the five-star Lyrath Convention Centre.

The audience was super-charged, and in excess of 1000 patrons packed the venue for what was a hugely success event from every point of view.

And what a phantasmagorical night it was!

It was lights, music, action from beginning to end as the enthusiastic and talented dancers of varying ages from the extended Callan parish area danced, bopped, pranced, jumped, twirled, soared and slid across the broad expanses of the stage.

One has to admire the courage of the committee of the John Lockes club who took on a challenging assignment.

Some might even have thought that the concept of 'Strictly Come Dancing' had out-run its ability to entice people to take it on as a resources driven concept. Let me tell you that its success rewarded the courage of the committee in spades.

The Callan club would not be over endowed with GAA personalities, like some others who would be swimming in such resources. This was never going to be easy.

In point of fact, some had misconceptions that it could have been a very costly failure. The obvious need was to make a lot of money to service the hurting debt on the re-developed John Locke Park.

This event certainly put a sizeable dent in the outstanding bank loan. Talking to one of the Trustees of the club, Tom Ryan, he was eager to underline the determination of the new kids on the block of many industrious, expanding clubs like the John Lockes.

“When we were going hard, purchasing the new John Locke Park all those years ago, we were strangled running all sorts of fund-raiders," he recalled. "We thought that we would never see the end of the debt, but we did.

"We were of the opinion, or at least some were of the opinion, that there was nothing coming on to take over the mantle. But how wrong we were.

"Now we have the likes of John Walker, Sean Hogan, Paul Morrissey, Robbie Jackman, Bosco Bryan, Joe Molloy, Jimmy Corcoran and more showing tremendous application, and doing great work to maintain, or even exceed the standards set by those before them. And if you look around the clubs in Kilkenny, the same calibre of ex-hurlers have taken on the jobs that many in their club felt would never be filled with the same levels of achievement.

"The involvement of the numerous ladies with tremendous drive and talent at the coalface of the club’s activities is a massive help. It’s not all about making tea, and baking buns for a Field Day with those ladies.

"They are very much integral in the expansion of the club, and that truly is fantastic,” Tom insisted.

The judges on the night were John Leahy, the former Tipperary hurling star, Richie Hogan, Kilkenny's former Hurler of the Year, Chloe O’Sullivan and Tracy Millea, the former All-Ireland winning camogie star.

The MCs were the popular Claire Henriques and Ed Heydon (chef).

The event was organised and supervised by Vesper Events, who did a wonderful job in coaching the dancers through their coach, Rachael Ellard (choreographer). Two enormous screen were erected on either side of the stage to facilitate every patron with visual access to the performances.

Vesper also produced a hugely entertaining video of the couples, with a varying theme for every couple. It was a quirky touch.

Some couples were filmed on building sites, farmyards, western shoot-outs, CSI simulations, Bond-like encounters with exploding houses, bridges and aircraft. It certainly garnished the overall presentation.

It is not always easy to be the 'arm up patsy', but as the lights flashed, the strains of the Meghan Trainor hit, 'Dear Future Husbands' announced the arrival of Gordon Peppard and Margaret Power.

Margaret, who professed to being a natural red-head, drew rapturous appreciation from the packed house. They merited a rating of 35 out of 40 from the judges.

They were awarded the Most Glamorous couple at evening’s end. We were away in a hack in the L yrath!

The next pair on the stage was special. Eddie Wall, former Lisdowney and Kilkenny All-Ireland medal winner, was partnered by Kathleen Funchion. They danced to the lively 'Voulez Vous' and gave an impressive account of themselves, even though Kathleen’s concentration processes could not be fully focussed, seeing how she was within a couple of hours of creating political history in her native county by being elected to the new Dáil.

She jelled very well with Eddie, who moved like a good greyhound - at his own ould pace. They rated a score of 32 from the judges. I felt maybe they should have bagged a couple more marks.

'Can’t take my eyes off You' celebrated Bernie Kirwan and Billy Sanders entry on stage. Both really pulled everything out for this.

Billy looked dapper in evening attire and grey topper. Bernie was eye-catch, glamerous in a scarlet red ensemble. They too looked at ease in each others dancing company, and their contribution was applauded to the rafters, meriting a score of 37 from the judges.

Their DVD featured the “The Good the Bad and the Ugly” firefight. They won the most improved dancing award at the end of the night.

The ever popular Joe Lyons escorted his partner Caroline Ryan on stage for their dance offering. Both were beautifully attired in period costume, complete with buckled shoes and pantaloons.

They cut a dashing pair forsuith, as Willie Shakespeare might observe. They danced to the melody of 'Be our Guest' to universal approval.

Joe read out a four verse ditty about the entire affair, and that earned more 'hair oil' for the lovely couple. The interviews with the MCs were enjoyable and witty - some were even on the edge - but the audience lapped it all up.

They too earned a 37 marks from the four judges.

The next couple, Mark Fitzpatrick and Rachel Murray, didn’t let the fans down. They bushwhacked the audience into thinking that their routine was just about dancing. But it was much more.

For starters, we had the first exhibition of semi-striptease, as Mark, always game for a giggle, disrobed to his trousers. They flew across the stage to the beat of the Whitney Houston special, 'Wanna Dance'.

Both gave it a lash from the bell. Their intro video on a building site won the best video aard. The final movement had Mark ripping off his trousers to a loud crescendo of “oh my gosh" only to reveal a pair of skimpy jocks with 'Spazzy (his associated name) and Rachel' emblazoned on the seat of aforementioned apparel.

They merited a full house of 40 points from the judges.

Eileen Walker and Jimmy McCormack were elegance personified as they careered across the stage to the Mary Poppins hit 'Favourite Things'.

They flowed and swooned and waltzed with expert precision, bringing their audience back to Julie Andrews time in the Oscar -winning cellulite extravaganza.

A lovely performance meriting yet another 37 marks.

Husband and wife team of Donnacha and Aideen Sheehan based their dancing routine on the Andrew Lloyd Webber creation 'Phantom of the Opera'. With the appropriate props, ghoulish music and costumery, they certainly made the role their own.

A lot of rehearsal time went into this effort, and the crowd responded in appropriate appreciation for their efforts. Entertainment in spades was the merit with a score of 34.

Spanish salsa dancer, Tehuel Vial, and local lovely, Tina Wright gave a show-stopping performance with 'Volare'. Tehuel, who works with the Ballytobin Community, serenaded Tina with his guitar initially, but they then exploded into the rumba beat of the Dean Martin hit.

The crowd went with them as they clapped and sang to popular Dino hit. In an electric performance, Tina and Teheul earned a standing ovation, and a mark of 38. Did they deserve more? Many thought so!

The ubiquitous Bobby 'Joe Dolan' Jackman flew a kite with his partner Jane O’Brien, to the air of 'Let’s Go Fly A Kite'. There were some present of the opinion that Bobby is an expert in kite flying.

With his barber shop blazer, and his straw “titfer” (cockney slang for a hat) he moved as well as any sixty something could do. Credit to both for trying.

They gave every ounce of energy for the cause. Jackman was never known to give less. They earned a 35 number, which did not do their effort justice.

Cathal Byrne, golfer, hurler, soccer player, general sporting guru, paired off with tag rugby, swimming and basketballer, Maria Power. Toni Brasil boomed out 'Hey Mickie' and these two young-bloods certainly responded.

Byrne threw his lady around like a spinning top, much to the concern of many in the audience. Did they succeed in winning their audience? You can mark that one down.

It was vibrant, blood-curdling and passionate. They got the four tens on offer from the judges.

The Jazz pieces 'Nowdays/Hot Honey Rag' announced the popular arrival of the lovable Robbie Jackman and his partner, Julie Cassin. She jokingly referred to Robbie’s dancing skills in the programme as “not a patch on Billy Elliot”.

He countered with his opinion on Julie’s dancing as “nearly as good as mine”. One of them was not giving an honest opinion.

The lovely Julie did her very best - for the two of them. He looked stunning in an all naval whites. The pair are hugely popular, and the crowd loved them. They have worked very hard for the effort.

The hard training for the two of them in the dancing paid off for one. They got the max figure from the judges. The crowd erupted. Julie Cassin is a great dancer!

Enrique Iglesias brought Krizan Tijardovic and Jean Orr on stage to present their sensual arrangement to the singer’s hit 'Bailando'. It certainly sizzled and oozed excitement.

And when Krizan whipped Jean’s scarlet wrap-around away, the place nearly fried. There was tremendous movement and great electricity between the two newcomers to the Principality of Callainn na Clampar (Callan of the Ructions).

They earned four nines for their effort.

James Meehan and his partner Louise Walker were unique in their presentation. To the Keane rendition of 'Somewhere only we Know' they performed an unusual dance routine more synonymous with ballet than conventional dance.

It was hauntingly spellbinding as James lifted Louise with such style and consummate ease through many elevated movements. We were to see them later in the dance offs, but the scoring of the judges gave them a deserved full house of tens.

Bruno Mars’ 'Runaway Baby' was the cue for two youngsters, Mark Laffin and Avril Collins to strut their stuff. They were brilliant as they bopped, twisted, lifted and spun through their routine with youthful abandon.

They got a score of four tens, and I could have put my house on them to qualify for the final dance-off. Exuberantly invigorating from start to the final whistle.

Young Ian McLoughlin escorted his dancing partner on to stage to impress the people who should be impressed. With the lovely Madeleine Hearn they were attempting a dance routine that was certainly foreign to their normal dance routines.

It was not going to be easy. Argentina, the home of the Tango, would not consider a Tango an easy dance to perform.

The young couple had a real go at it. It was sexy, sensual, fiery and polished. It must have been, as it convinced the judges to give it the maximum number of points. Well done. Terrific stuff.

The penultimate couple were Callan’s only Turkish barber, Eros Balica and the slim, elegant Karen Power. To the air of 'No speak Americano' by Yolanda Be Cool, this couple set the bar at a very high level.

In my meagre opinion, I couldn’t see this pair beaten. Eros was the Fred Astaire to Karen’s Ginger Rogers. The lifts were perfection. The tempo of Karen, in particular, was faultless.

Both of their rhythms were in perfect synchronisation. Their interpretation of the music was spot on. This was the one for me. They too got a well deserved full house of forty.

Like the wedding feast at Cana, we were fed the final act, which was a knock-out. P.J. O’Keeffe and his partner, Ashley Cooke performed an ancient Celtic ritual of dance, intrigue, and ultimate murder. They owned the stage.

There were two of them on it, but every millimetre was utilised as P.J. engaged with his Queen before ritualistically murdering her clinically, and in a kind of sardonic sense.

This was pure theatre, with P.J. taking the Queen’s crown and proclaiming himself as the ruler of the land with a chilling roar.

It was performed to the warlike strains of the 'Foggy Dew'.

The show was down to the stage when selections were in order. Twelve of the 17 couples were about to be eliminated, leaving five in a dance-off to decide the first three placings. Excitement was palpable.

Nails were being gnarled. Tribal allegiances were being voiced - loudly in some cases. The five selections for the dance-off were Tehuel Vial and Tina Wright; Cathal Byrne and Maria Power; Robbie Jackman and Julie Cassin; James Meehan and Louise Walker and finally P.J. O’Keeffe and Ashley Cooke.

There were some surprises there for sure. All five couples performed their routine again, and then it was down to the judges to make the final calls.

In a intense final time slot the third place was awarded to Cathal Byrne and Maria Power. In second spot were James Meehan and the delightful Louise Walker.

The winners were the 'Foggy Dew' couple of P.J. O’Keeffe and Ashley Cooke.

The chairman of the John Lockes club, John Walker thanked all who made such a valuable contribution towards a hugely successful evening. He singled out Paul Morrissey in particular for his determination, organisational skills and value to the cause.

“Without the dancers and Paul Morrissey this would not have happened,” he informed.

Sponsors, volunteers, club officials, ladies, the Lyrath Hotel, judges, MCs Claire and Edward, and Vesper Productions were mentioned in glowing terms. All dancers were presented with a commemorative medal.

The first three teams were given trophies to mark the occasion; one could reach out and take lumps of goodwill and pride from all who made a contribution to a superb occasion.

Talking to Paul Morrissey - that is when he could get a minute - he was at pains to re-direct acclaim towards others, but we persisted.

“Congratulations Paul on a job which was embraced by you from the start, and taken to a very successful safe harbour.”

“This was all about team work,” he insisted. “There was superb goodwill towards it from a huge variety of angles. As John said, it couldn’t have happened without a huge number of great people.

"I am only an insignificant part of a great body of people who proved that given the right circumstances, the motivation of a decent community and the generosity of so many people, nothing is impossible. When we got great people behind us, all pulling on the same rope, in the same direction, you can achieve anything you want.

"That is exactly what happened here in our town of Callan, and all concerned should be complimented and praised from the highest element,” said the former star goalkeeper of the John Lockes club.

As we went to press, it was learned that a sizeable sum -in excess of €40,000 is anticipated - was raised for the club.

As a President of the John Lockes club I am extremely proud of what was done for my/our club.

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