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We chat with some big names taking part in RTÉ's Dancing with the Stars

The 2017 Dancing With The Stars line-up
The 2017 Dancing With The Stars line-up

SPARE a thought for the 11 Irish celebrities who had to ditch, roast potatoes and pudding this Christmas and replaced them with salsa lessons and gym sessions.

With just one week until Dancing with the Stars launches on RTÉ One, celebs from the world of sport, TV, music and comedy were putting the finishing touches to their foxtrots and cha-chas before they leap out of their comfort zone into the most anticipated show on Irish telly for years. 

“Imagine a dance circle at a wedding, only the circle is the size of Ireland. That’s what lies ahead of me,” laughs Des Bishop, as Magazine+ sits down with the comic in between his gruelling lessons in a Dublin city studio. 

Still dripping with sweat, the American-born comedian continues: “I’ve no training whatsoever, but I can’t say no to a dance circle at a wedding. 

“I would have done a bit of street dancing back in New York before I came to Ireland, but that was back in the late 80s. But nothing like this. This is insane. 

“I’m not used to working with people. When I go out there on January 8th I am not only dancing for me – I am dancing for my professional partner, too. I don’t want to fall flat on my face for her!”

So what about the competitive element? “I won’t get dragged into that, to be honest. I want to be there until the end but there won’t be any trash talk or spying going on. We are all in this together, learning a new skill that is completely different to what we do in our day jobs.”

While Des was not ready to be drawn to the competitive side, Red Rock star Denise McCormack was more willing to throw her two cents in on the great dance floor soap war. 

“I know it will be a Fair City versus Red Rock thing with some people, between myself and Aoibhín Garrihy. I’m fine with that. Red Rock will absolutely come out on top,” she laughs. 

The Dublin actress, who starred in Love/Hate before landing a plum role in TV3’s hit drama, knows she has an advantage over many of the other celebrities on the new show.

“I used to dance,” she says with a sly smile. “Before I even got into drama, I was at dance classes doing ballet and jazz. So I have it in me. 

“Not that I’m an expert or anything. But I think in the beginning I found the steps easier than the others, but by now they will have caught up with me. I hope they haven’t but I reckon they have,” she says loudly in the hope of the others hearing her.

“I am one of those women who is always up dancing at a wedding. I just can’t help it but as for nights out dancing? I have two young kids so those nights are a thing of the past. 

“I can’t remember the last time I had a night on the tiles and ended up dancing with the girls. It’s just not on my radar anymore.”

Agreeing with Denise’s sentiment is RTÉ sports pundit Des Cahill, who believes he has a slight advantage over “the younger ones” in the competition.

“Look, I didn’t have to sacrifice a lot of over Christmas in preparation for this show. I just watched what I ate and drank, and kept practising as much as possible.

“The young ones would have probably had to make some serious decisions about nights out and parties over the past few weeks so I think I am lucky in that sense.

“There are very few negatives for me taking part in this show. Even though, when they first asked me to do it, I told them ‘no’. 

“But my kids, who are all grown up now, heard about it and convinced me to go for it. My wife was on board too, as the training has done wonders for my health. I’m definitely the most overweight of all the contestants, so I am using this as a keep fit regime too.”

According to Paddy Power, Cahill and celebrity nutritionist Dr Eva Orsmond are joint favourites to go home first, but the Sunday Game frontman believes that is unfair.

“I know why they think I’m going to be the worst – but, to be honest, I don’t think it is going to pan out that way. I won’t win it. I am not stupid. Have you seen Des Bishop dance? 

“But I will definitely be putting a few quid on me to make it further than the week three. 

“I am definitely not a dancer. At family weddings I get asked to dance a lot because I am on the telly. But I never say ‘yes’. I always just stand at the bar or stay rooted to my seat. 

“Even back in the old days I was never a dancer. I was one of those boys who stood on one side of the pub or hall and just watched others dancing.”

When Magazine+ heard that newsreader Teresa Mannion, famous for that dramatic weather report from the promenade in Galway last winter, was taking part, we instantly predicted that she would be opening up the show with the “inevitable” Singing in the Rain. We were wrong.

“Ha. No. We have a few tricks up our sleeves alright but we won’t be doing Singing in the Rain. Maybe if we get a bit further into the competition we might consider it. I genuinely have no idea how this show is going to pan out. I am just thrilled to be part of it. I am a huge fan of Strictly Come Dancing so when Shinawil approached me it was an easy ‘yes’. 

“I’ve already noticed a huge difference in my fitness. Plus I’ve lost weight. So even if I do go early I will cherish my time on the show. But I want to hang on in there as long as I can. Who wouldn’t want to be part of this show? 

“We get to learn a brand new skill and I get one-on-one sessions with professional dancers several times a week. It’s not work,” she laughs. ✚

● The first ever series of Dancing with the Stars waltzes onto RTÉ One next Sunday, January 8 at 6.30pm