“I can only explain it like your shoulder is in a different dimension and you just want it back and it’s the most uncomfortable, excruciating, horrible feeling of pain I’ve ever felt in my life”
Hundreds of thousands of viewers grimaced when Johnny’s arm literally popped out of his right shoulder during a ferocious wresting match between himself and burly rugby player Fergus McFadden.
The pair were pitted against each other in a close combat test for RTÉ’s Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week - The Professionals, with Fergus upending Johnny’s arm from underneath him as they strived to force each other over a barrier.
“I can only explain it like your shoulder is in a different dimension and you just want it back and it’s the most uncomfortable, excruciating, horrible feeling of pain I’ve ever felt in my life,” Johnny (35) tells the Sunday World.
“It was horrible. I have to say Jason the South African doctor, and Ray Goggins (instructor), when they took me aside, they were so calm.”
The pair of them managed to pop Johnny’s arm back into its socket, with the help of an inhalation of painkillers.
Plucky Johnny then decided to carry on, despite his ordeal.
“I think what I did there was ‘you know what, I’ve hit rock bottom now and I can only go in one direction because I can’t get any lower, if I can get through this I can get through anything,” he points out.
His wrestling match followed two separate boxing bouts, including one against fitness influencer Rebecca O’Rourke, in which instructors criticised him for ‘holding back’.
“I don’t think anyone wants to be involved hitting a girl in any sort of case,” argues Johnny. “I did what they said, which was controlled aggression, so I didn’t lash out and I didn’t hurt with intent. I suppose I just did controlled aggression.
“Then we they put me in with (athlete) David Gillick. That’s not controlled aggression.
"I got hit in the face and then I just went hell for leather and started landing as hard as I could blows and punching full on in the face, where he started complaining and then the DS (Directing Staff instructor) was going ‘yes, that’s much better from you No 9’ and I was like ‘this isn’t controlled aggression, we are kicking the s**t our of each other’.”
Johnny also hit out at producers of the show for making him out to look “thick” for the emergency medical rescue mission the previous week, where the team has to ‘rescue’ three air crew supposedly injured in a helicopter crash.
“I was taken away for 90 minutes while they were all given this 90 minute lesson on how to act in an emergency situation with first aid but they had interrogated me during this and kept me away for a good hour, while they were all learning this course,” he maintains.
“I literally caught the last I’d say five minutes and then I thought ‘what’s all that about?’. Then we did ‘Scratch’ (another challenge).
“I was told that night I was Orderly Sergeant. Then when I was woken up in the morning one of the DS’s said ‘right you No 9 up against the wall, you are in charge of this quick response unit group, who had learned the first aid course, and you’ll be put to the test today’.”
Johnny told the DS he wasn’t at the briefing.
“He said, ‘well you’ve got f**king half an hour to learn it, get all your s**t sorted now’ and I was like ‘Jesus, I haven’t a clue’,” he recollects.
“They didn’t show that. But in that situation, I hadn’t a clue, so it just looked like I was a bit thick or a bit stupid, or really intimidated.
“Whereas if I had of had the tools to prepare for it I would have been a bit better than what it was. It was set up for disaster.
“We had two stretchers, we had three bodies. We knew that whoever was going to be in charge of that was going to fail.”
This week’s episode saw Johnny and the other 10 members of the team one by one having to crawl through an underground pipe, but he reveals there was a safety mechanism at work in case they got stuck or had a panic attack.
“When we did that, there’s a very tight, what felt like shoelace, its attached to your leg and they will pull that. That’s how they will pull you out, if you have a panic attack or whatever they will pull you out that way,” he discloses.
TV fans first got to know Johnny as motorbike lover Pauly in Love/Hate and later as kidnapper Ciaran Holloway in Fair City. He then took part in Dancing With The Stars and has toured the country in Copper Face Jacks The Musical. He will shortly play Captain Hook in pantomime in Limerick and runs an acting and dance school for kids..
The Dubliner is also set to marry his fiancée Brenda Murphy on July 8 next year, having first met her while out walking in the Curragh during lockdown.
He initially declined to do Hell Week, but then changed his mind.
“I thought ‘what have I done over the lockdown?’. All I’ve done over the lockdown is substitute a very busy routine with fitness, so let’s put it to the test now,” he explains. “I might not be able to prepare mentally as well as others, but I can definitely prepare physically’
“Brenda was a really good help. She’s very sporty as well. She won the All-Ireland for Kilcullen Ladies in soccer not so long ago as well, so really fit and helpful throughout the whole thing
“I think one thing that got me through it was always knowing ‘it’s just a week, it’s not forever and they’re not going to kill you’.”
He also chose the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin as his charity for money raised supporting him in the show, as he noticed no one else has opted for an organisation that helped the homeless.
“Every single year when I’m doing panto you see homeless people outside the pantomimes in the freezing cold and it’s something that really struck a chord with me,” he reflects.