Ryan Andrews

First Published October 2021

KING OF THE MOUNTAIN

“The thing about the breaking is, and they [the DS] said that from day-one, you need to be broken. In order for you to build, you need to be broken. Some people might go in – not that recruits did – but some people might go in and say I won’t be broken. You won’t break me. But when you allow yourself to be broken, and I did, I got to the real, real bottom of my soul. Like last week’s episode where I was saying [to myself] that the only way forward now is up. I can only go up from here. So when the hike came, I was like, well, I’ve been to the bottom of my soul, I’ve been to the lowest part of my life, so this is a bonus. That’s where I was at. That’s allowing yourself to be broken, it’s allowing yourself to get vulnerable and open up. And you build back up even quicker.” 


That was actor RYAN ANDREWS talking to us about last week’s epic episode of ULTIMATE HELL WEEK which saw Ryan and his fellow remaining recruits take on the monumental Foreman Aftman challenge, described as Hell Week’s toughest event. If you – like me – followed Ryan’s journey on Dancing With The Stars Ireland in 2020, there’s one thing you’ll already have known about him, and that’s that he commits himself body and soul to everything he takes part in. We saw that week-in and week-out on Dancing With The Stars. Maybe, though, some people might have considered a show like that to be a bit of an easy ride, so not really the best way to judge someone’s levels of resilience or depth of character. Well firstly, those people would have been wrong – soooo wrong – in thinking that way. And even if they did back then, there’s just no way they could think like that now. Because last week on Ultimate Hell Week, the man who showed he could be a king of the dancefloor, proved he could be king of the mountain, too. 


I first met Ryan back during his time on Dancing With The Stars, and lest anyone be in any doubt, a finer gentleman you could not meet. And it was my pleasure to catch up with him again last week. 


After first congratulating him on his achievements so far, and before we got into the trials of Ultimate Hell Week itself, I wanted Ryan to take me right back to the moment when he was first asked to take part. Did he say yes straight away?


“I got an email. And the email said, ‘Hi Ryan, we are Motive Television and we produce the series Hell Week’, and I replied without even reading the rest of the email, 100%, I’d do it. It was meant to go on ages ago, the show kept being put back so many times. It was meant to be last year, then in November, then in January. And I actually tore all my ligaments in my ankle last year when I was going to be doing the show, and I even said yes then! Even with my ligaments torn. Little did I know how bad the show was gonna be! [Laughs]. But yeah, I was 100% doing it straight away. I knew this was something I would never, ever do again in my life. I’d never get the chance to. So it was ‘Yes!’ before I even read the end of the email.” 

What was the reaction of Ryan’s family and of Michaela when he told them he was doing it? 


“Well Michaela doesn’t know anything about the show [at the time], she’s never seen the show, and she kept goin’, ‘Ah, it won’t be that bad, they’re not gonna make ya do that, it’ll be more like ‘I’m A Celebrity’, that’s what she thought it was! My mam and dad, they watch the show like myself, and they went, ‘Oh Jesus, that’s tough!’ Normally what happens is, you do a show and you think it won’t be that bad…and it ends up being bad [tough]. But with this, before I went into it, I was saying this is gonna be horrible. I knew it was gonna be so tough. But even at that, I wasn’t expecting how tough it was actually going to be.” 

Although Jake Carter remarked on one episode that he only had two weeks notice before the show began, generally speaking, it’s not something that you find out about today, and it begins tomorrow. Knowing Ryan to be the kind of guy he is, I knew he wouldn’t have let the time between being asked to take part and when the show got underway pass without doing as much as he could to ready himself for what lay ahead. So physically, how did he go about preparing himself for his time on Hell Week


“Realistically, I had about four or five weeks’ notice. This happens [with me] all the time. Unless I have an actual goal, an end date, I won’t do anything. I can’t focus or put time into something if I don’t know if it’s going to happen, or when it’s going to happen. I need a specific date, whether it’s Dancing With The Stars, whether it’s panto…I need an end goal. We got a few emails back and forth and I wasn’t doing anything because they were saying, look, it might happen next year, it might not happen at all. Then I got the final confirmation that the show was happening in four to five weeks time, on whatever date it was. Then, I said ok, I’m 100% all-in. The diet, the training. And the hard thing is, the more you train, the further away you think you are from where you need to be. You try to cram everything into five weeks, but in those five weeks, you’re tired, you’re fatigued, you’re mentally nearly getting weaker. You’re researching the show, and the more you do that, you feel like getting sick! [Laughs]. It was a mad five weeks! But, I learned a lot about myself in that time, and to train specifically for what would be at hand, and I think that’s what I did.” 

In many ways, the physical side of Hell Week is only half the battle. Less than half the battle, even. On a show like this, your mind will be your biggest ally, or maybe your worst enemy. How did Ryan try to prepare for that side of things? 


“The mental side is the most important. The mental side is number-one. If you’re not mentally strong or fit… It’s your mind that tells your body what to do. Your mind, your thoughts, that’s what tells you to get up at 5 o’ clock in the morning to go on the hike. Your body doesn’t tell you that. Your mind is the number one thing, and if that’s right, and in a great place, you can achieve and conquer anything. Sometimes in life, my mind might not be the strongest. And there might be days where I don’t want to do that training session. I don’t want to get up. I don’t think I’m good enough. But those four or five weeks [beforehand], and that week of that course, I felt like my mind was as strong as it has ever been. Even with the hike, it was my mind telling my body to go on. It was my mind saying your rib is broken, but it’s not gonna stop ya. So I went to the sea a lot, and I’d go in in the freezing cold and stay there as long as possible. I’d visualise myself completing the course, visualise myself getting through the course, doing all of that stuff. And I’d meditate a lot, too.” 

Before going any further, I wanted to turn the conversation in the direction of another big reason why Ryan said yes, his chosen charity, the Mater Foundation…


“I’ve said this before about the Mater Foundation, or really any charity, because there were eighteen recruits with eighteen different charities. The work of the Mater Foundation and all the frontline workers – I’m talking about cleaners, caterers, head-doctors, electricians in those hospitals, everyone – they keep all that running for patients throughout the year. And my dad was one of those patients this year. I saw the work that they did. They go through hell every single day. Their daily routines are like a week of ‘Hell Week’ for us, what they have to face, the obstacles they have to overcome. In particular over the last year. They were a lifeline, they were like the DSs to my dad [laughs], they were the ones calling the shots. Hell Week is a show. We’re well-known people going on a reality tv show. But these people [in the Mater Foundation] do it for life. The hike wasn’t life or death. If I wanted to quit, I could have quit and got a lift home. These doctors, these nurses, they can’t. They can’t just quit. If they quit, that affects so many people. So I wanted to show my respect and support for all the people in the Mater by doing this for them.” 

There were two things that I figured had to have been on Ryan’s mind going into Hell Week: his biggest fear, and whatever he promised himself about his time on the show. I asked him if he’d share those thoughts…


“To be perfectly honest, and I said this going into the show when Doctor Jason called the day before – when we were locked in our hotel room and he came in to do a physical examination and a mental examination – and he asked what are your biggest fears. I said I don’t have any. He said, ‘Ah they all say that!’ [Laughs]. But I said no, I didn’t. And I proved that on the show. I wasn’t afraid of water. I wasn’t afraid of heights. I wasn’t afraid of the dark. I wasn’t ‘afraid’ of anything. I was self-conscious, I was uncertain, I was worried. But I was never afraid. I never had a fear. Except, for when the balaclava went over my head. And that was a fear which I did not know I had. So that was a shock, because I was so well prepared mentally, physically. But the emotional side completely took over because that brought back memories of my dad struggling for breath on a ventilator in the ICU. So it’s amazing what this show does. It opens you up, it makes you even more vulnerable. And when you haven’t slept, and you have no food, things just come rushing back in. That was a fear that I definitely faced. And, as you’ll see in next week’s show, I have to face it a whole lot more! And one thing I said to myself was I won’t stop. And in particular, that came back to me on that hike. I said NOTHING will stop me. I said they will have to take that arm-band off my arm. I said I was going to get to a point where they would actually physically have to take that arm-band off me. That was my mentality going in, ya know. If you don’t have that mentality, if you don’t set yourself up like that, if you only go halfway, sure you’ll fall at the first hurdle. So you have to set your goals high to achieve a realistic outcome.” 

Hell Week is somewhat strange in that it can only really be experienced as an individual, and yet, you can only really get through it as part of a group, as a team. How did that team dynamic first begin to form, in Ryan’s opinion? 


“We all had to isolate ourselves in a hotel, so it even started the night before, straight away, it was funny. Obviously there was lockdown, and social-distancing, and we were all tested and isolated. We were like a bubble. The first people I high-fived or shook hands with was Rory O’ Connor, Rory’s Stories. I’m talkin’ about in a year! So when you’re hugging these people before you even start, there’s definitely a bond there, and there was respect before it even started for everyone even saying yes to the show. The more people that dropped out, the tighter the group got. At a lot of points during the show, whether it was a pat on the back or a wink, or Rory – when I broke my rib – he lifted me back onto the boat with Jake, and when my head was down for the first time, he said, ‘Keep your head up, Eighteen, don’t drop it now.’ There’s little moments like that, I wouldn’t have got to this point, without the people around me. It really does mean a lot. You’re only as good as the people around you. You’re only as strong as the people you have surrounding you. I think that’s something I’ve definitely taken from the show, and that I’m going to take forward into my everyday life now.” 

It’s funny that Ryan mentioned Rory there, because in my opinion, the two most completely open and honest people on the show were the two of them. Was there much of a gap between the expectations that Ryan may have had of people from what he knew of them before Hell Week and how he found them during their time together on the show? 


“Probably not with me. I’d be a good judge of character. I knew beforehand that anybody saying yes to this was a certain type of person. They were there to prove something for themselves. They wanted to do something that not many people would say yes to. I respected everyone. I would have gotten to know people better, heard more of their life stories. Do you know what I enjoyed? I enjoyed getting to know how they got to the point where they are today. Take Laura, for example. Most people would have said dancer, blonde, pink, nails, glittery slippers, whatever! But Laura shared stories of her in secondary school getting a flight to England on a Friday evening, rehearsing and training, rehearsing and training all weekend, and flying back to Ireland on Monday. That’s resilience. That’s what builds up their character. Rory talks about having mental breakdowns and going through depression, and fighting that. If you can get through that, you can get through anything. And everyone shared stories like that. And Peter [Stringer], about his training with the Irish team, the legend that he is, that’s what I enjoyed. I loved seeing how people have gotten to where they are, and seeing who they are now because of what they went through in their life.” 

When Ryan was lying in his bunk, in silence – when he actually got a chance to lie in his bunk! – what would go through his mind? DS Ray Goggins, in his remarkable book Ranger 22: Lessons From The Front, shares how he used to use the words of the Madness song, Our House, as a kind of mantra to help him get through some of his toughest moments. Did Ryan have anything like that? 


“No. Nothing [laughs]. One of the Army guys, before we went in, said eat when you can, sleep when you can, and rest when you can. And that really, really stuck in me. He goes, ‘The only three things I want people to do is eat when you can, sleep when you can, and rest when you can.’ That, in some ways, turned me into Robocop! Because when there was food there, all I would do was just eat. When I wasn’t on a task, I would just rest. And when I slept, I would literally go, I don’t know how long I’ve got. So I don’t want to be up thinking, I don’t want to be worrying. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know what’s coming. So there’s no point thinking about that. I just wanted to get as much sleep as I possibly could. I always think of my body as a battery. You want it to be at 100%. But I was running at 60%, maybe 40% going to bed. I was just thinking I want to recharge as quickly as I possibly can to be ready for what’s in store. So it was more like just get to bed as quickly as you possibly can and recover. And then, you think you’ll do that, but they put you on sentry duty where you have to walk around and you don’t sleep. Then you get into bed for fifteen minutes and you’re woken up with a banger and you’re fecked into a feckin’ plunge-pool! [Laughs]. It’s so hard! But that’s what I’d do, I’d just try to rest and recover for what was in store.” 

Ryan mentioned earlier that he found out a lot about himself during the four or five weeks when he was preparing for the show, but did he find out anything about himself during the show that he didn’t know beforehand? 


“That’s a good one. I always thought that I had resilience, courage, that extra something. But, I probably 100% never really believed it. I give 100% into anything I do. Whether it’s making a cup of tea. Whether it’s playing with my nieces or nephew. Whether it’s ‘Dancing With The Stars.’ I always give 100%. But there was always a doubt there, in the back of my mind, am I actually good enough? Can I back-up what I think I can do? And I never thought I really could. I don’t know if I needed something like this show, that I could say, THIS is tough, the toughest thing I’ll ever face, the toughest thing I’ll ever go through. This is something that has a 10% feckin’ pass-rate. So this was a challenge that I needed. So to get to where I have, I’ve proven to myself that I am resilient, I am determined, I am committed to whatever I do. And this show proved all that for me, and that was a massive thing for me, to get rid of that self-doubt in the back of my head.” 

To wrap things up, I wanted to really dig down deep into Ryan’s reservoir of Hell Week knowledge. So, just suppose someone like Grainne Gallanagh – someone we both know – comes to Ryan next year and says, ‘I’m going on Hell Week…what’s the most important thing I need to know or remember aboutwhat’s to come?’… what words of wisdom would he have to share? 


“Run! [Laughs]. Don’t do it! Don’t do it! [Laughs]. No, I would say be open to finding out who you are. Some people don’t really want to know who they actually are inside. But you have to be open to that. Also, it’s going to be the toughest – emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually – event you will EVER go through in your whole life. Be prepared for that. It’s that saying that if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail. You have to be very comfortable in yourself to do something like this, whoever you are, because you’re going to find out a lot of things about yourself – good and bad – and you have to be ready to accept that. I think everyone from the show got nothing but positive, nothing but good things [from it]. It’s something that everyone should take forward in life, stepping out of your comfort-zone, finding out a little bit more about who you are, and more about what you are as well.” 


~ The FINAL episode of this season’s ULTIMATE HELL WEEK airs TONIGHT, Wednesday, October 13th, at 9.35pm on RTE 1. To vote for Ryan and support his chosen charity, the MATER FOUNDATION, text RECRUIT18 to 50300.

ENDS

Ray Goggins

First Published October 2021

RANGER 22

Is ULTIMATE HELL WEEK the best show on Irish television right now? The answer to that question isn’t simply a resounding YES, it’s yes by a hell of a way. And one man who plays a major role in making this possible is DS RAY GOGGINS, the Chief Instructor on the hit show. But the Corkman isn’t just a presenter brought in to front the show, far from it. 


With more than a quarter of a century’s service to his credit in the Irish Army, and seventeen of those years spent in the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) as both an operator and leader in a Tier 1 Special Operations Unit, Goggins is the kinda guy that Hollywood’s biggest male stars would fight over to play in the movies. The big difference between them all, of course, is that when RANGER 22 – his number in the ARW – served in war-zones around the world or operated as a bodyguard in Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East and Afghanistan, the dangers he faced on an hourly basis – and sometimes minute by minute – were all too real. 


While situations like those leave little room for error or re-takes if the lighting isn’t just right, they’re definitely the kind of experiences that teach you a thing or ten along the way. And, given that the wisdom gleaned from all of those trials and tests can be applied just as much to everyday life, sports, business, and even politics, they also provide a unique insight that’s worth sharing. That being so, Goggins has gathered it all together to tell the story of his life in RANGER 22: LESSONS FROM THE FRONT, published by Gill Books. 


Mark my words, this is a contender for book of the year and will top many’s a Top Ten list come the year’s end. Whatever you do in life, this book will help you to do it better. That’s just a fact. And, it’ll make you laugh along the way too, because that famous Cork sense of humour doesn’t just disappear when you sign-up to serve your country, ya know. If anything, it just dries out a little bit more and attains an even sharper edge at the same time. And lucky for us, because that helps to make books and TV shows all the more entertaining! 


With the nation glued to their TV sets for Ultimate Hell Week every Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of spending some time in conversation with the man leading the DS as they prove to celebrities like Ryan Andrews, Laura Nolan, Peter Stringer, and Rory O’ Connor that hell can, in fact, be a very real, wet, and cold place on Earth. 


Something I picked up on early on in reading Ranger 22 is that there are many attributes a Ranger needs that most people probably wouldn’t think of straight away. Two that really stood out were a sense of calm and a sense of humour. At the end of Ranger 22, Ray lists a few more of the qualities that have become constants in his own life, so I asked him to tell me a little bit about another one of those – of his own choosing – that people might be surprised would be important to being a good Ranger.


“Yeah, look, I guess the calm one is kind of straight-forward, and the humour, they’re huge in anything you do in your life. I suppose…I’m trying to stay away from resilience, integrity, people would associate all those [with being a Ranger]…I suppose empathy is one that people mightn’t realise is a huge part of it. Not even just when you’re training guys, or when you’re training yourself, but on operations and missions you need to have a cognitive empathy as to what’s going on, but for yourself and outside of what you’re doing, so your teammates and even people you’re dealing with, like villagers, or people who are under a lot of pressure and so on. They could be starving, they could be in awful conditions altogether, and you need to be able to understand that. It’s a hard kind of game to play, because you have to be able to know when to step in, and when not. It’s easier with your team guys, to be able to do that, to be able to read them. So if a guy needs a helping hand, you can give it to him. So I think empathy is a big one there.”

Is there ever a fear or a doubt that a quality like empathy might be seen as a weakness, or become a chink in the armour, so to speak? 


“No. Empathy and kindness are incredibly important in special operations. I know for a fact that through the years where I got a helping hand from somebody when I badly needed it, I never judged that as being a weakness. Yeah, I get what you’re saying, some people might misconstrue kindness for weakness, but a switched-on person won’t. They’ll realise that you’re putting your hand out for a reason, and it’s to help them out. It doesn’t have to be a huge input, it could be something very simple. You could just give someone a minute or two of your time. Or, give them the right word, or the right direction, and that means then that they’ll do something better and work harder at it.” 

And might empathy ever be seen as a weakness by anyone outside of the team who you might be dealing with? 


“It depends. Some people, because of their own failings, maybe. But you’ll find that people who won’t give empathy, or don’t use empathy, are usually weak, and not very good at what they do anyway because they can’t relate to other people. I think personally, from my experience of being in special operations for nearly twenty years, you’d see guys being empathic in all kinds of ways, on a daily basis. And it can be just the smallest little thing, like pulling a fellow up off the ground, or giving a fella a kind word, or just stepping into a situation for thirty seconds but that means that situation completely changes. That person that you’re stepping in to help, you’re basically taking the pressure off them for that thirty seconds, and that could mean the difference in them being able to carry on for another twenty-four hours or forty-eight hours, or a week or whatever it is. because you made that small little gesture.”


Back around January 2019, I didn’t listen to my gut-instinct on something, and it ended up costing me, both in a business and a personal sense. While I may have thought that was a disaster for me at the time, where it rates on a scale of actual life-or-death problems is brought into sharp focus by the fact that at that exact same time, Ray was being blown-up in a suicide bomb attack on the compound where he was stationed in Afghanistan. But when it comes to something like gut-instinct, is there any place for that in the Rangers, given that training for the ARW is so intensive, so comprehensive, and almost always on-going? 


“It’s a good question. You have the processes and procedures that are trained into you, so it is second nature, and when you do make that decision to flip the switch you carry out whatever you need to do very quickly. But your gut has a role to play, as in what scenario you carry out or where you go from a situation. Do you defuse it by being less aggressive? Or do you make that call to be completely aggressive and end the situation by violence, or whatever it is you’re doing. Gut has an awful lot to do with it. And experience only can teach you that. It’s all well and good to have these drills and routines that you slot into, but you have to KNOW then what drill to slot into and when to do it. It’s like that knowledge and wisdom piece. Knowledge comes from the book, but wisdom comes from the experience.” 

I mentioned in my last question how Ranger training always seems to be ongoing. And in the book, Ray talks about doing a diver course, followed soon after by a recon course, a perfect example of how Ray and the Rangers constantly challenge and transform themselves. In life away from the AWR, has he found ways to continue to challenge and transform himself, I wondered – his book, Ranger 22, being one, of course – but are there others apart from that? 


“Yeah, so the book and the show are two of those things. I have a training business now as well, that I started this year. I wanted to do something different. I had still been involved in security and bodyguarding to a certain extent up to last year, but I decided to do something new. Well, it’s not new, I’ve been training people all my career, I guess, but I wanted to do it on my own and step out into that world. I always find that if you’re learning something new, or you’re doing something new, it’s always good to challenge yourself. If you’re sitting on your arse scratching it, you’re learning nothing. You always have to test yourself a little bit. And whether that means stepping into a new type of career or just edging towards something a bit different, it’s really important. It just keeps you going, keeps you effective, keeps you happy. And it keeps you alive too. There are three things I try to feed every day of my life. I feed my body by training, [looking after my] health, and so on. I feed my mind by learning new things, new challenges. And the most important, is to feed your soul, doing stuff that really makes you happy on the inside. Sometimes I get to do all three together in one event. Other times I don’t. But I try to focus on those three things every day. Not just once a week or once a month. Every day.” 

You’ll often hear about professional footballers who come to the end of glittering careers but, while still relatively young, end up needing hip or knee replacements because of what they’ve put their bodies through. Ray mentions in his book that he eventually had to have laser surgery on both knees, because they had never been right since back when he went through the ARW selection process. So what kind of shape is his body in now, after so many years of testing it to so many different extremes? 


“It’s actually pretty good, I still train away. I’m fifty now, I turned fifty this year, and I do a couple of 10ks a week. I have my own gym here out the back of the house, that’s where I train. But yeah, there is a lot of punishment on the body, on the knees and back in particular from the lifestyle I’ve chosen. But I’m probably fitter…actually no, I am fitter than most of my peers my age. I have no serious injuries that have incapacited me. I’m probably operating at about 95% of my best, I’d say, at the moment. I’ll take that.” 

Does Ray have any fear that his desire to, or his willingness to train, might wane as the years go by? 


“No. There’s a saying I heard once, about [training] keeping the old man away! And that’s what I’ll be doing! You’re only as young as you feel. And there’s no reason why I can’t be physically fit up until the day I die. There’s no reason why not.” 


Mindset, which is what Ray was talking about there really, is so often mentioned as being vital to everything, both in Ranger 22 and on Ultimate Hell Week. In one promo for the show, Ray is heard declaring to the recruits not long after the course has begun, that the DS will be “in your souls in one hour!” Darran O’ Sullivan, the Kerry All-Ireland winner, said in an interview that it only took them about eight minutes to get into his! However, because of the way that training can break people down but then build them back up again with a greater sense of self – and, a clearer sense of something bigger than just the self, the team in the case of the show – would Ray think that there might be a place for something like this – or even some kind of national service, maybe – in Irish life in general, or in our justice system? 


“So you’re saying some sort of penal, hard-labour thing, or something like that, something along those lines?” 


Not so much in a punishment kind of way…


“More in a building way? And even as a national service for young guys to go in and do eighteen months? Well, again, look…that’s a kind of a grey area. I used to think that it would be a good idea to do that for guys and girls, eighteen to twenty-one, do national service for a year. But you won’t get that special forces training for people who are conscripts or have to do a year, a year and a half in the military. What you’d get is regular army training, which is pretty good, but to be fair, it’s not at the level that special ops is. It would be very hard to manage that, and expect people to go through that type of training in a year and a half. But look, there probably is scope for a version of it maybe, something that could even be done in secondary school, training days, teams. A lot of the facets of it that are very applicable to normal people. There’s a lot of what I do in my corporate work and with teams, where I bring in some of the mindset of teamwork and effectiveness training that I’ve learned, and I can bring that across to people in the private sector. Not like a Hell Week type of event, but some of the mindset of it. But it’s not as effective. If you get someone stripped down to their bare soul, you can put so much more information into them then where it’s better for them to build.” 

In the ARW Ray and his colleagues would spend so much of their lives operating – so living, in other words – at such a high level of intensity. Now, I know from sport or music events that it can take a few hours to come down from the adrenaline of an event or a gig, and yet none of those things would even come close to comparing to the levels of intensity Ray would be used to experiencing. How does he go from being so switched on to being able to switch off in a short time? Is it just a process that he has to go through like the rest of us? 


“It’s one of the side-effects of the training. You have to get yourself in a position where you can go from zero to one-hundred miles an hour instantly. This is why when you sleep on an operation, you sleep with all your kit on. When you get up you’re ready to fight straight away. On the show, the DS staff, we can take it from being super-calm to being super-aggressive within seconds. But that doesn’t mean that we lose control. It’s all controlled aggression. You bring it up to a level where you’re controlling it, it’s not controlling you. And you can bring it back down as quick. It’s quite similar in operations then, you can step up to be in that mindset quite quickly, and you can step down quickly as well. Now, it doesn’t always work, but it will work most of the time.” 


From reading Ranger 22, and other interviews that Ray has done, as well as watching UltimateHell Week and chatting to a good mutual friend of ours, there’s a part of me that sometimes feels a little bit jealous of the adventure, the excitement, and the challenges that Ray has known in his life. Or, perhaps a better way of putting it is that maybe I regret not trying more different things along the way myself. But has Ray ever regretted joining the Army over the years? Is there any other profession that curiosity would draw him in the direction of if he could try it for a day or a week? 


“I think I’d like to have been an ice-cream man or something like that if I hadn’t been in the army [laughs]. No, I’ll tell ya, I never for one second regretted joining the army, even in the really bad days or when things when absolutely pear-shaped, when your body and your brain are sayin’, ‘What are ya doin’ here?!’ I always had the answer for my brain. This is why I’m here, because it was something I always wanted to do. I know I’m doing different stuff now, but that’s still all based on what I learned and what I did as a soldier. It’s all the same. I’m still doing the same thing I was doing thirty years ago really. I’m just doing it in a kind of instruction mode now, and there’s more eyeballs on it compared to what I used to have. No, I have no regrets. I couldn’t even contemplate being in another job, to be honest. I know I have a training company now, and I’m doing this kind of stuff, but I’m still in instructor and army mode when I go and meet people. It’s the same thing.” 

I’m lucky enough to be speaking with both Ultimate Hell Week recruit Number 1 Laura Nolan, and Number 18 Ryan Andrews in the coming weeks as well. Having interviewed them both before, I wasn’t in the least bit surprised to see how well both have been doing on the show so far. Some recruits on Ultimate HellWeek can probably surprise the DS by eventually revealing a resolve that may not have been apparent straight away. But what I wanted to know was are there any little signs or ‘tells’ that usually let the DS know straight away – or very early on – if someone definitely doesn’t have what it takes? 


“I’ve had this question before, and as long as I’ve been doing this show, and even running the real military courses, yeah, you might get a vision of someone on the first night or first day, good or bad, but bar someone being absolutely completely out of control and flapping so much that they can’t even make a decision…those are obvious signs of someone who probably isn’t going to last too long, unless they learn to control it. But in general, I find that it’s very hard to pick up on anything, unless there’s a blatantly obvious sign with someone in the first twenty-four hours, someone breaking down or not being able to cope immediately, that’s a red-flag. You’ll see those. But other than that, it’s quite difficult. I’ve heard other people talking, saying they can do it, but I’ve never seen anyone who could, realistically. You might have an idea about someone in your head, but that’s the whole beauty of the process. Someone might be completely on their belt-buckle and weak, but then four hours later they’re the best candidate in the group because of a particular thing you’re doing, or they’re just committing to it better, or they’re more suited to it. That’s the beauty of it for me. So to answer your question, it’s hard to pick someone that’s going to finish or not. It’s really hard to do.” 

Again, returning to a recent interview I remember seeing somewhere where Ray spoke about his time in Afghanistan, and in it he talked about learning to switch off his emotions. There’s a moment in Ranger 22 where Ray is talking about the suicide bomber attack that I mentioned earlier. A lady called Shipra had been killed in that attack. But while Ray was coordinating the evacuation of their compound, he and his team not only made sure to take Shipra’s body with them, but Ray writes about, “…gently placing her in the ambulance with as much respect and dignity…” as they could. I found that passage particularly emotional to read, so I can only imagine what it must have been like to live through. But what I wondered was, was his being able to treat Shipra’s body in that manner – in the midst of so much chaos – also down to his Ranger training? Or, was that a moment when the man himself, just Ray Goggins from Cork, happened to shine through? 


“It’s probably a bit of both, to be honest. Again, as I say in the book, I didn’t know that lady at all, she’d only come back the night before, late, and I hadn’t seen her. And when I came in before that at Christmas, she’d already gone home on leave. My point of view is that it’s about everybody else. A lot of those other people had probably known her well, and they probably knew at that stage what was after happening to her, even though we tried to keep it from them as much as possible. Not because we wanted to keep it a secret, but they didn’t need to see that at that particular time because they were going through enough. This was six or seven hours into the event, and they were frazzled at this stage. I just needed to get them out and get them somewhere safe at that stage. And it wasn’t just me. There were two or three other guys with us, so it was all of our decision. The medic had fixed her up and made her more presentable, and we got her into the [body] bag then, and marked that respect for her. I’m not a religious man, but I’m definitely a spiritual kind of person. It’s good to protect people even when they have passed away, but you still have them [with you]. You still need to protect them.” 

Ultimate Hell Week is obviously a very personal and individual journey for everyone who takes part, but is there any one thing that Ray has seen everybody learn about themselves, regardless of how far they make it? 


“Yeah, people understand their reserves of strength. People don’t realise there’s always something left. Even when you think you’re completely spent, you have a reserve if you can just get into it. And that’s of power, of stamina, of anger, whatever it is to keep you going. A lot of people say, ‘I’m at 100%’, but they’re nowhere near it. Most people operate at about 50% in their average day, and they think that’s 100%. But there’s a lot more in our mind and soul to keep us going. It’s rare enough that we get into it. It’s only those extreme events and those extreme cases that get you into it. Then you realise you have that well. And when you know that well is there in your normal day – like for me, for example, having been involved in madness in different parts of the world – I know that well and how to get into it. So I can tap into that on a daily basis for something possibly innocuous. That gives you that amazing ability to be calm and composed when people think it’s chaos. But it’s not really.” 

RANGER 22: LESSONS FROM THE FRONT, by RAY GOGGINS, published by Gill Books, is OUT NOW and available at all good bookstores nationwide. ULTIMATE HELL WEEK airs every Wednesday night at 9.35pm on RTE 1. 

ENDS

Alex Roe

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, August 2021

FANS ALL-ABOARD FOR NEW ROE SINGLE

Glór Tíre finalist ALEX ROE has country fans all aboard for the release of his new single, a cover of WHERE THE BOAT LEAVES FROM, a hit for American country rockers, the Zac Brown Band.    

     

Roe, who narrowly missed out on taking the Glór Tíre title last year, released Where The Boat Leaves From on August 2nd. And the man from Clara in Offaly is hoping his version of Zac Brown and Wyatt Durrette’s good-vibes track will do its best to lift spirits and keep people in a summer mood for as long as possible. 


          “This is actually a song that was on an album called ‘The Foundation,’ which was the very first Zac Brown Band album back in 2008. Like most people in Ireland who know the band, I got into them when I first heard the song ‘Chicken Fried,’ one of the most laid-back and catchy songs ever! And I think I first became aware of it when Johnny Brady recorded it for his ‘I Owe It All To You’ album in 2013. That’s what got me into the Zac Brown Band to begin with. I started going through their back-catalogue and as soon as I heard ‘Where The Boat Leaves From’ I knew I definitely wanted to take it into the studio some day.” 


          Alex continued, “So back earlier this year, when I recorded  ‘I Loved Her First’ – and before I even knew I was going to release that one as a single, because that kind of happened out of the blue when so many people were asking about it – I was just thinking about what might be a good song to follow ‘I Loved Her First’ on an album. And the more I thought about it, the more I felt like ‘Where The Boat Leaves From’ would be the perfect choice. The Zac Brown Band have this knack of writing songs that are incredibly melodic and memorable. And at the same time, they’re songs that just make you feel happy when you listen to them. So I’m hoping we’ll be putting some smiles on faces with this single when it comes on the radio.” 


          Although Where The Boat Leaves From was itself never released as a single by the Zac Brown Band, the album it featured on – The Foundation – was nominated for Best Country Album at the 2009 Grammy Awards, and helped the Atlanta based outfit take home the Grammy for Best New Artist. The collection was also nominated in the Album of the Year category for the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2010. 


          During his time on Glór Tíre in 2020, judge Caítriona O’ Sullivan remarked that even his early performances showed him to be, “a king of the stage”, while his mentor, country legend Trudi Lalor described him as being, “…a star already, and will be an even bigger one in years to come.” 


          Despite being just twenty-two, Roe had clocked up the miles from his late teens on, performing at venues all around the country. And after close on a year and a half of not being able to do what he loves most, he can’t wait to get back out in front of fans again. 


          “It’s been a tough time for all of us, there’s no denying that. But what keeps me going is dreaming of the moment when all of this comes to an end. I can’t wait until we’re back to something like normality again, and I can introduce a song like ‘Where The Boat Leaves From’ knowing that I’m about to see every face in front of me light up with joy. That’s what music does. And that’s what this song does. Hopefully it will make people smile when they hear it on the radio for now. But the moment when that can happen again in real-life, that’s what I’m living for.” 


~ WHERE THE BOAT LEAVES FROM, the brand NEW single from ALEX ROE, is OUT NOW on all platforms, and available to request from radio stations nationwide. 

ENDS

Hot Country TV/ Hugh O’ Brien

First Published July 2021

KEEPING IRISH COUNTRY HOT

Long renowned as an innovator within the Irish country music scene where he has been an influential figure for more than a decade, Cork based HOTCOUNTRY TV host and founder HUGH O’ BRIEN, is about to launch an exciting new venture which will create almost fifty new jobs while offering artists an opportunity to grow their fan-base on a worldwide scale.


The Hot Country FREE HD TV iPlayer will open a portal for artists and fans alike to share and enjoy the best of Irish country anywhere across the globe.


The iPlayer (also known as the Hot Country TV Media Player) – which will be an on-demand service, similar to that provided by Netflix, Amazon Prime, Discovery, Now TV, and others – will be accessible via all Smart TVs and digital devices, taking only about ten seconds to download.


Speaking about his new venture, the Corkman, who first broadcast on SKY TV almost twelve years ago, explained how the new Hot Country TV iPlayer will change the landscape of the Irish country music scene.


“This is a first for Irish country music as currently there is no iPlayer available which can be downloaded to SMART TVs. This gives the viewer comfort, with top quality picture and sound at the flick of a button. If they like country music, and indeed associated programming, then this is the place to be. Country music is hugely popular and has the second highest audience rating on RTE 1 each year, The Toy show being the biggest.”


As well as creating up to fifty new jobs nationwide (with more to be added) by way of camera and sound operators, presenters and researchers, editors, sales and office staff, O’ Brien revealed that the free Hot Country TV iPlayer platform will also be available at extremely attractive rates to other video producers. These might be producers who have either a series or once-off shows available for broadcast. As this platform – that of TV and in this format is not available at present – he expects this option to prove very popular among creators. With the Hot Country TV iPlayer also offering a pay-per-view facility, O’ Brien has no doubt that its arrival will mark a new era for country music, and any and all associated businesses. 


In fact, he sees this as an exciting opportunity to be availed of by businesses of any shape or size, and in any sector, remarking that, “We’ll have hugely attractive advertising rates, and we’ll happily talk to anyone about how we can work together. No problem at all.”


The Hot Country FREE HD TV iPlayer on-demand service will include the award winning Hot Country show (long noted for its role in helping to launch the careers of stars such as Nathan Carter, Derek Ryan, Mike Denver, Cliona Hagan, Jimmy Buckley, and many more), plus: Hot Country XTRA;The NewStars Of Irish Country Music, promoting Ireland’s newest country singers and bands; the Life & Times show profiling the life of Ireland’s top stars; TheMost Awesome Bathroom Singer in Ireland; as well as star interviews, a regular gig-guide, infomercials for wedding suppliers, shows from Nashville TN, and shows on farming, tourism, motor-sport, and more yet to be announced.

Now, one of the above-mentioned shows in particular may have caught your attention, and that’s The Most Awesome Bathroom Singer in Ireland.


If we’re all being honest about it, then most of us would have to admit that we think we’re a country star when we’re singing away to our heart’s content in the bathroom! And that’s whether we have a voice like Mike Denver or – as the saying goes – even if we couldn’t carry a melody if it had a handle. So here’s the BIG question: Have YOU ever fancied yourself as a bit of a Nathan Carter, a Derek Ryan, a Jimmy or a Claudia Buckley when you’re standing in front of the bathroom mirror? Or, when doing your best Daniel O’Donnell, Olivia Douglas or Sabrina Fallon impersonation while in the shower, has the thought ever crossed your mind that you could take that talent and step into the real-world spotlight with it? If the answer is yes, then there’s another question that awaits you…


Do you think you have what it takes to take home the title of The Most Awesome Bathroom Singer in Ireland?


Well, if you do, the chance to prove it is coming your way, and again, it’s coming courtesy of Europe’s longest-running country music TV show, Hot Country, and it’s founder Hugh O’ Brien. “Some of us wouldn’t sing in public even if we were paid to!”, exclaimed Hugh when we spoke recently, adding with a laugh, “And I’d be one of them!”


“And yet we’ll nearly all sing in the shower without any embarrassment. Believe it or not, there’s a scientific explanation behind such soapy musical stylings. Think about it, you probably don’t sing when you’re sad, unless you’re singing the blues, of course. For many people, shower time is the only time they’re alone all day. You’re in a warm, small, safe environment, and you’re comfortable enough to be in the buff! Stress literally washes off you. When you relax, your brain releases dopamine, which can give your creative juices a jumpstart.”


Hugh continued, “The warm water rushing over you relaxes you, and makes you feel good. And it turns out that singing makes you feel even better. You see, singing, because of the breathing you put into it, gets more oxygen into the blood. This gives you better circulation, which in turn improves your body and mood. Because you have to breathe a little deeper to belt out a song, you get some of the same relaxation and mind-clearing benefits as meditation. And when you’re singing, you really can’t think about your problems, so there’s more stress relief for ya!”

Hugh went on to explain that the best thing about singing in the bathroom is the acoustics. Because bathroom tiles don’t absorb sound, your voice bounces back and forth around the room before fading away. And because the shower is a small space, it also boosts your voice and even adds a little bass, making your singing sound more powerful. The sound bouncing gives your vocal styling a slight reverb effect, which makes your voice hang in the air longer and evens out variations in your singing. This can be thought of as a primitive auto-tune, making you sound better than you actually are, and giving you an added confidence boost in the process. 

So, how exactly can you go about becoming the most awesome bathroom singer in Ireland? Well, that couldn’t be more simple. 


All you have to do is record a video of yourself being the star that you are when you’re singing in the bathroom. Whether that’s in front of the mirror, in the shower, or even while relaxing in a bubble-bath, we’ll leave those choices up to you! 


When you’ve captured the take that you’re happiest with, simply send your video to hotcountrymedia@gmail.com, and you’ll be in with a chance of winning a holiday for TWO in Spain, and a number of product hampers from Galway Irish Crystal.


The best videos will feature as part of the brand new original show on Hot Country TV’s newly launched Free HD iPlayer, presented by Jodie Lucas. This can be downloaded to all SMART TVs worldwide, plus all digital devices including Apple and android phones. The show will also be available on the Hot Country TV website www.hotcountrytv.com


With Hot Country TV, the whole world really is a stage…even your bathroom!


So get your voice warmed up, and get your phone out, because YOU could be…’the most awesome bathroom singer’ in Ireland!

~ Hot Country is Europe’s longest running country music TV show, broadcasting for the last twelve years and currently on the hugely popular Phil Mac’s Spotlight TV channel Sky 365, plus Freesat 516, Freeview 87 (Manchester), and Free to Air Satellite all over Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe. Broadcast times are Monday at 8 pm, repeated on Saturdays at 6 pm, also available worldwide at www.hotcountrytv.com and www.spotlightv.co.uk Hot Country is edited by Leo Fitzgerald at Music Row Studios in their state of the art video and audio studios in Ballydesmond, Cork, Ireland.

ENDS

Glór Tíre

First Published July 2021

LONG LIVE GLÓR TÍRE

Sometimes, just by being around for long enough, what you do can end up being massively taken for granted. Case in point, the hit TG4 show, GLÓR TÍRE. Despite the many complications caused by Covid-19, and the subsequent restrictions and guidelines which needed to be put in place and adhered to, the team behind the show managed to make sure that the 2020 series eventually came to a conclusion late last year. More than just that, though, they also found a way to make sure that the 2021 series went ahead. 


A key-word to pay attention to in everything I’ve just pointed out, is ‘team.’ Because that’s what it takes to make Glór Tíre happen each year. And it’s a team that is in part unseen, but yet, without the talents of all involved, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the on-screen contributions of judges Jo Ní Cheide, Caitriona O’ Sullivan, and John Creedon, as well as presenters Aoife Ní Thuairisg and Séamus Ó Scanláin, and of course, the fabulous house-band. The show is not just about each year’s contestants, it’s bigger than that. 


And yet, if you were to judge things by some of the vile, vicious, attention-seeking, and often desperately ill-informed vitriol that was regularly spewed forth in social media comment sections during the course of this year’s series, you’d assume Glór Tíre and almost all involved with it to be something akin to a TV Taliban, only to be reviled as a gang of clueless chancers. And that description, as colourful as it might be, doesn’t even approach the levels of hyperbole achieved by some of the country music ‘fans’, and indeed, self-appointed commentators of sort who felt the need to grace the world with their opinions. It certainly opened my eyes to some people, and how, and when, and in what manner they seem to like to share their thoughts with the world. All good to know, though. 


Full disclosure, by the way, I had the pleasure – and it was a pleasure – of working with EMMA DONOHUE during her successful Glór Tíre campaign under the mentorship of MIKE DENVER this year. Without a doubt, Emma has everything it takes to carve out a career for herself on the Irish country scene. I’m more than certain that her natural talent, a work-ethic that’s simply second-to-none, and a personality that’s every bit as genuinely warm and funny off-stage as it is effortlessly comfortable on-stage, would have ensured this anyway, regardless of how things went for her on the TG4 show this year. I can say that with my hand on my heart. 


Despite working with Emma this year, the last time I actually saw her in person – and probably her mentor Mike as well – would have been at the Keltic Country TV Irish Entertainment Awards at the Tullamore Court Hotel in November of 2019. As far as anything to do with her campaign went, we did everything by phone, email, messenger, you name it. We had little choice, of course, given the complications of the last year and the disruption that Covid has caused in all areas of life. This was my fourth time working with a contestant on the show, and my first time to be involved with a winning act. So I’ve been there before, seeing someone I believed in and wanted to succeed being voted out, or falling just short at the last hurdle. I’ve seen it happen, not understood it, been completely mystified by judges’ decisions, and ended up feeling completely deflated, frustrated, and disappointed. But I’ve never once become abusive about the show or anyone involved in it online, in either a direct or an indirect manner. 


Normally the nights of the ‘live’ shows down at Quays Bar in Galway are bursting with excitement, full to the brim with fans and supporters of the contestants. Despite the nerves, the tension, the inevitable waiting around that comes with television, and sometimes the disappointment, the adrenaline  and the fun of those nights always makes them memorable. That ‘live’ element of Glór Tíre has been a crucial factor in making the show the success it has been for close on two decades now. So it would have been understandable to some degree if the show’s producers had decided that the 2020 series could not finish, nor the 2021 series get underway without a ‘live’ audience being able to attend. But, to the credit of all involved, the power of that evergreen mantra of those who work in the entertainment industry – the show must go on! – was invoked. The 2020 series finally came to a conclusion in November of last year with Offaly’s own Alex Roe – with whom, by the way, I also had the pleasure of working with during his campaign – narrowly missing out on the crown of champion. And following that, also in November of last year, filming got underway for the first episodes of the 2021 edition. 


Now, here’s a point that simply can’t be stressed enough when it comes to Glór Tire. I’ve mentioned it already, but it’s worth repeating. The show is not just about whoever the lucky contestants are each year. Yes, the focus of the show is on the contestants. But the show itself is not just about them. And that’s a distinction that seems to have been lost on a lot of people this year. Without the production crew, the presenters, the judges, the mentors, and of course the band… there is no show. It’s as simple as that. Every year a line-up of new contestants get the opportunity to perform on ‘live’ television, to a national audience, because the Glór Tíre set up is in place. Without each of those elements being in place, the spotlight never lands on any artist. 


This year, everyone involved in the show was asked to accept a certain level of personal responsibility in adhering to the guidelines and regulations necessary for the safety of EVERYONE involved in the show. These guidelines and regulations were not in place just to protect the contestants. Again, they were there to protect the contestants, AND the production crew, AND the presenters, AND the judges, AND the band. And by extension, the family, friends and loved ones of all of those people. Those guidelines and regulations were in place so that the show had a chance to go ahead at all this year. They were in place so that six more new and young country music hopefuls could have a chance that simply does not come their way through any other media outlet in Ireland. 


Everyone knew what was expected and needed from them at the beginning, and everyone agreed to it. 
Now, if you were to base your assessment of how well or otherwise this year’s series of Glór Tíre went from what you might have seen on social media at the time, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it was nothing less than an unmitigated disaster, organised by amateurs, and unnecessarily and recklessly cruel to some contestants. And not only that, you’d possibly end up being fully convinced that the show achieved nothing other than bringing country music into disrepute while calling the future of the whole scene into question. 


The problem, of course, is that social media has become the best possible example of how the court of public opinion is so often formed on ignorance, and a few quick lines thoughtlessly thrown out into cyberspace with either no basis in reality or one that can usually be dismissed in well under a minute with a little careful examination. Simply put, a huge amount of the social media reaction to this year’s show was disgraceful nonsense. It served only to betray a lack of knowledge about the music industry in general, and – what’s worse in this case -a lack of any kind of genuine care about the country scene as a whole in particular.

 
Most of that negativity stemmed from the fact that two contestants had to withdraw from the show for breaching the Covid guidelines and regulations that were in place. According to some who felt so compelled to share their wisdom and insight, these guidelines and regulations should not have been enforced at all, and doing so only made a mockery of the show. Gimme a break. Two contestants broke the rules (whether accidentally, unintentionally, or unluckily), and had to withdraw, which was only right. But FOUR contestants did everything that was asked of them, from the beginning of their involvement on the show, to the end.  Now this point has nothing to do with who those contestants were, on one side or the other, because that doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. If, with circumstances such as they were, anyone broke the rules that were in place to protect EVERYONE, then the only right and fair thing to do was to leave the competition. 


However, to go by the reaction of some (and I mean some supporters of those contestants here, not the contestants themselves, let me be very clear about that), you’d swear that when the two withdrawals occurred, there was absolutely no point in continuing on with the show from that point. The show was slammed in various comments as being a sham, rigged, nothing but a money-maker, and having only useless singers left in it anyway. Pardon my language here, but… bullshit, all of it. 


If you think the rules of anything should only apply to whoever you care about, you’re deluded. If you think the best way of showing your support for someone is by throwing out insults in the direction of others, then you’re an asshole. If you seriously think that a show which has been a hugely valuable platform for new artists for so long should suddenly cease to exist just because your favourite contestant had to withdraw as a consequence of their own actions, then you’re a selfish, deluded asshole. 


And it’s not just for new artists that Glór Tíre has done some service, either. Don’t forget that each mentor gets to perform a full-televised show every year as well. That fact should not be forgotten so easily. Long, long before The Late Late Show began trying to paint itself as an altruistic endorser and supporter of Irish country music – which it isn’t – Glór Tíre was there. While Glór Tíre creates a space for new and emerging talent to begin to make a name for themselves and build a career, The Late Late Show has a view of country music that can only be described as willfully and woefully myopic. The future of the Irish country music scene depends far more on Glór Tíre than it does on The Late Late Show, just as much as the country music as it is today, owes far more to Glór Tíre than it does to The Late Late Show. 


Talk of the show being rigged, or a sham, or just a money-maker are each so equally preposterous as to warrant immediate dismissal rather than too much further time. But also, such ridiculous notions should never be just let slide. So…


Everybody knows the format of the show, and how the voting system works at the outset. It’s no secret. And nobody ever has a problem with it until…again…their favourite supposedly falls prey to something as sinister as…the obvious! Contestants who get the least votes run the risk of being in the bottom two, and having their fate then decided by the judges. If a contestant ends up in that position, that’s not the show’s fault, or the judges’ fault, or any of the other contestants’ fault. The system is the same for everyone, from start to finish. Now, I’m not for a minute saying that I’ve always agreed with every decision that the judges have made, because I most definitely have not. There have been occasions, including this year, when I’ve been left somewhat baffled. But, in those situations the judges are doing their job, and doing so as they best see fit. And that’s exactly what they’re there to do. And their opinions should be respected. Opinions will always differ, after all. That’s the nature of everything. 


Perhaps the most sickening – and stupid – comments that kept showing up in one form or another revolved around the aspersions cast on the ability of the singers involved this year. Just think about that for a moment. Everyone who vomited up such ill-thought-through opinions considered themselves to be better judges of talent than the actual mentors on the show, AND the people involved in the production of the show who go through this process every year. Imagine being able to strut through life with that level of blissful arrogance? Must be some feeling. And every time comments such as those were posted, even if they didn’t actually name any of the remaining contestants, imagine how that felt for the singers who remained in the competition. Because the contestants would have seen them and heard about them, don’t think they didn’t. So imagine how that felt. How it felt for their families. Just think about that for a moment or two…


They’d done nothing wrong. They were just doing something they love, chasing a dream in what is a really tough industry to ‘make it’ in anyway. And yet, they were being subjected to such shameless and unnecessary negativity. 


You can take it as fact that the people who were posting such comments did not – not even for a heartbeat – consider the feelings of anyone except themselves on those occasions. They were angry, they wanted to vent, so vent they did, just playing up to the online crowd by contributing their two-pence worth to a sewer of ramblings and ravings that never amounts to more than the manifestation of a ‘mob’ mentality in these situations. If they were in possession of even a shred of self-awareness, and for even half a heartbeat had thought about what they were writing and saying before finally publishing those comments, the sheer embarrassment of relaising that they were acting in such an entitled, childish, and – in some cases – just plain stupid way, would have been enough to make them delete every word as fast as possible. 


But something else that you can take as fact is that those people would never come out with such rubbish if they ever found themselves standing face to face with any of the people involved in Glór Tíre and whom their comments were directed at. Just wouldn’t happen. Cowards tend to become rather shy when they venture out into daylight. 


Being chosen to participate in Glór Tíre this year (as it is any year) was a brilliant achievement for all concerned. It should have led to a host of moments they could look back on proudly for the rest of their lives, regardless of where their careers do or don’t go following the show. And hopefully all six contestants will be able to look back on some moments that will always warm their hearts to remember. Unfortunately, however, everyone’s experience will have been tainted somewhat by some of the nonsense that polluted the comment sections on so many posts about the show.

One of the main reasons that seems to have allowed this to happen, is that a certain number of country ‘fans’ have come to take the existence of Glór Tíre in our lives, as part of the country music calendar, very much for granted. What a mistake, and what fools. 


Glór Tíre has offered so many artists the chance to perform to a national audience for the first time. And the chance to perform on television for the first time. And sometimes, to perform with the backing of a full, professional band for the first time, too. Opportunities like that are priceless in the development of any new or emerging artist’s career. And, as the show always sees some of the more established artists on the Irish country scene mentoring each year’s contestants, you have a coming together of different generations, with some of those who have already been stars forever and some of those who are the stars of today, meeting and sharing their hard-won wisdom and experience with the potential stars of tomorrow. 


THAT is what Glór Tíre makes happen every year. THAT is what Glór Tíre does for Irish country music every year. 


And none of us should be taking it for granted. It deserves better. 


Long live Glór Tíre. 

ENDS