Yowsa. Tonight’s grand finale of Dancing with the Stars was loaded with talent, glamour and brio, and I don’t mean Westlife or Leo.
In lifting the Glitterball after three flawless dance routines, Mairead Ronan became the first woman to do so on the ratings-busting show.
Her rivals, actor Johnny Ward and country music singer Cliona Hagan, also delivered top-drawer performances, but the public plumped for the mother-of-three who redefined elegance and grace in her ‘own choice’ contemporary dance to Take That’s ‘Rule the World’.
The 38-year-old broadcaster only dropped a single point all night in her opening Charleston to ‘Bom Bom’ by Sam & the Womp.
“I don’t have enough time to say all the things I want to say....this time last year I was sitting in the booth where my family are sitting, I was 20 weeks pregnant... I never thought a year later I’d be on the dance floor picking up the Glitterball,” Mairead said, in a brief but emotional victory speech.
There were a couple of firsts in tonight’s finale. As well as being the first woman to win — previous winners were Kerry GAA star Aidan O’Mahony and musician Jake Carter — Mairead’s pro-partner John Nolan was the first Irish professional dancer to lift the Glitterball.
Johnny Ward, who had to deal with a family bereavement while working on the show, had them rocking in the aisles with his jive to ‘Johnny B Goode’ by Leif Garrett with pro-partner Emily Barker.
He scored full marks for two of his dance routines, as did Cliona and Mairead, although Mairead had the highest score overall at the end of her three dances.
The last individual dance from each celebrity was a new and original show dance. Mairead and John performed theirs to ‘Don’t rain on my parade’ by Barbara Streisand.
She was paid the ultimate compliment by judge Brian Redmond, a tough man to please, when he said: “In week one I described you as a beautiful ballroom Belle ... all we can ask from anyone in life is that you reach your full potential...and you’ve done that.”
There was plenty of praise also for Cliona, particularly for her closing number, performed with pro-partner Robert Rowinski to ‘The Champion’ by Carrie Underwood.
Brian paid tribute to her passion, aggression, and edginess “something we haven’t seen from you before. it takes a great performer to keep the best to last”.
Of Johnny Ward, judge Julian Benson said: “You took on board what we asked you to do. Tonight your frame, core and delivery...you were magnificent on the floor...you were like a leading man..”
Judge Loraine Barry was equally generous in her praise, particularly in relation to Johnny’s last dance to ‘Bad man’ by Pitbull : “What a great last dance you had...you showed everything....you’ve given it everything here.,” she said.
In fact the judges gave it welly too, taking part in a visually stunning opening number, while Westlife put in a rehearsal for their We’re-Back-Together-Seven-Years-Later Big Arena Tour.
Nicky Bryne pulled off a lightning wardrobe change, quickly switching jackets to revert from ManBand to perfect co-host, with the extremely able Jennifer Zamparelli, formerly Maguire, formerly of The Apprentice.
It was emotional when the curtains finally came down after 12 weeks of rumbas, foxtrots, charlestons, jives, salsas and waltzes but at least it means we Can Stop Dancing.
Shinawil. ‘til the same time next year.