Above: Members of St. Finbarr’s Boys N.S. Parents Association together with Event Co-Ordinator Sandra Maybury presenting a cheque for €36,000 to school Principal Brian Gleeson following the hugely successful Strictly Come Dancing Bantry event. L-R : Josephine Sheehan, Christine O’ Donovan, Caroline O’ Connell, Bridget Keane, Brian Gleeson, Anne Carr, Christine Fitzgerald and Sandra Maybury Photos: Tony O’Donovan, www.momentsintime.ie By Sandra Maybury
The ‘beast from the east’ may have come and gone but Bantry’s Strictly contestants created the biggest storm of all as they danced their way through January to March in the build-up to what can only be described as three spectacularly entertaining nights. The atmosphere was electric at the grand final at The Westlodge Hotel on Sunday, March 18 with many commenting on how Strictly had brought the people of Bantry together, young and old from all different communities. There was a genuine feel-good factor that was evident throughout the whole event.
Sunday night’s show kicked off with three couples performing in an outstanding dance-off. Mary Barry and Tommy Murray took to the floor first with a salsa, followed by Bernie O’Mahony and Jason Griffin’s sensual waltz. Then Laura Power and Seanie O’Leary stepped it up a gear with a cha cha, which won them the judges vote to perform again for the title.
Presenters Richard Harrington and Gearoid O’Leary did an amazing job of hosting all three shows, their local knowledge and connections with each of the contestants made for very entertaining commentaries.
Mary Deane and Tommy Barry danced a dramatic Tango, which had the audience in hysterics, followed by local business owners Edel Mc Govern and Alby Andrews who revved it up with a fast-moving Jive to the famous Footloose tune. Bantry’s own ‘Johnny and Baby’, Shelly Connolly and Damien Hicks danced to the iconic ‘Time of my Life’ from Dirty Dancing and they nailed ‘the lift’. While Dee Wiseman and Gavin Cronin married a Jive to Tina Turner’s Proud Mary. Husband and wife duo, Claire and Stephen Hayden finished off the first half with a cheeky Lindy Hop to ‘Dear Future Husband’.
A short break allowed the audience time to cast their vote for their favourites so far.
Back to the competition, dance-off winners Laura and Seanie started off the second half with electrifying enthusiasm. While Majella McCarthy and Mark O’Donovan dressed in amazing costumes, danced a romantic foxtrot to the theme tune from Beauty and The Beast. The next couple to show off their fancy footwork with a Latin number were Stacey O’Sullivan and Stephen Coughlan. The first couple to score a 10 from judges Eilish and Colum, were Emilie Murphy and Paudie McSweeney. Then a sexy Latin dance by Brid O’Leary and Diarmuid Sheedy set the floor on fire.
Judges for the final show were Aidan O’Mahony, winner of RTE’s Dancing with the Stars 2017, who shared his own dance experience and knowledge with the contestants. C103 breakfast show presenter Colum Mc Grath said “The community spirit in Bantry was incredible, I was made to feel so welcome by everyone, it was a fantastic fundraiser,” while Eilish O’Carroll, aka ‘Winnie’ from the Award Winning Mrs Brown’s Boys said, “I had the best night, I was totally blown away by the standard of dancing, the atmosphere was amazing. Bantry is very close to my heart and it was fabulous to come back to West Cork to be part of this community event.”
Lily de La Cour and Ronan O’Mahony delivered a knockout performance with their jive to Olly Mur’s ‘Dance with me Tonight’, which was full of lifts and tricks. Gillian Harte and Ger O’Brien danced on the ceiling with their cha cha, finishing the routine with Gillian dangling upside down. This performance scored them full marks from the judges. Another 30 marks then went to Maggie O’Shea and Kieran Hourihan who performed an emotional Rumba to Chasing Cars ‘Snow Patrol’.
That just left St. Finbarrs Boys National School principal Brian Gleeson and his dance partner Claire Hourihan to wrap up the couples dances with an energetic cha cha, also scoring them full marks from the judges. Brian, originally from Killarney, a self-confessed blow-in to Bantry, thanked the organisers, dancers and audience members for their support for the school saying, “Bantry, you should be very proud, give yourself a round of applause and a standing ovation, this event would not have been possible without your support and community spirit”.
But the show didn’t stop there. The ladies mesmerised the audience with a saucy chair dance routine. It was almost a case of boys versus girls, when the male dancers performed a hilarious version of YMCA – each dressed in different costumes, including cowboys, indians, guards, cowboy builders, Mrs Brown herself was even throwing a few shapes on the dance floor. Each group performance was welcomed to standing ovations from the adoring spectators.
The audience waited with baited breath for the winning couple to be announced. Finally, Gillian and Ger were crowned Strictly Come Dancing, Bantry, Winners 2018.
All three nights were a roaring success with much-needed funds raised for St. Finbarr’s Boys National School. On behalf of the Parents Association, Christine Fitzgerald addressed the audience, thanking all those who had supported the boys school and especially the 32 dancers for the three months of relentless effort, sacrifice and dedication and for making the show the entertainment success it was. She also thanked her fellow Parents Association members, Anne, Bridget, Caroline, Christine, Josephine and Sean for the tireless work done behind the scenes. Christine said, “Lets not forget, the real winners here are the staff and pupils at St Finbarr’s Boys National School. This very successful fundraiser will go towards improving conditions in the school and in turn make it a better environment to teach in and to learn in.”