Wildlife expert Mooney, who has teamed up with weather woman Nuala Carey in a new RTE TV series, The Summer Show, contracted covid for the second time.
“I had a bit of a panic attack because this time my voice went very funny and sounded like I was talking under water,” Derek tells the Sunday World.
“Obviously as a broadcaster that was a concern because I thought, ‘I don’t have much else.’ I heard a woman on radio saying, ‘Forgive my voice, I’ve got long Covid,’ and she sounded like how I sounded.
“Fortunately mine cleared up after about a week. However, I still have sinusitis, which comes in waves.
“I had been fully vaccinated and the first time I got the virus it was nothing, but this one was a bit tougher.”
The award-winning broadcaster says he’s never been busier through his full-time work on the Mooney Goes Wild radio show, plus his fill in work on Lyric FM radio – he took over from Marty Whelan this week – and on The Today Show, where he has stepped in for Dáithi O Sé several times.
“I still love doing radio and TV, it’s what I was born to do,” Derek says. “I’ve never lost the passion for it.”
His new TV series, The Summer Show, where he teams up with Nuala Carey, sees the pair taking trips around the pilgrim paths of Ireland.
On Sunday, Derek and Nuala walked Saint Kevin’s Way from the village of Hollywood in Co Wicklow over the mountains and down to Glendalough.
Each hour-long episode also has various celebrities and presenters dropping in to highlight other aspects of Ireland’s rich culture, history, lifestyle and our unique landscape and wildlife.
Sunday's show included contributions from country music star Nathan Carter, who takes a walk up the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in Co Fermanagh.
Legendary Irish actress Mary McEvoy channels her inner Queen Maeve as she takes on the Tain trail in Co Louth.
“There are a whole heap of people from different worlds and backgrounds doing various reports into the programme,” Derek says. “I remember Brendan O’Carroll saying about Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie when it came out that it was a love letter to Dublin and I think this programme is a bit of a love letter to Ireland.
“What we’re doing is highlighting the pilgrim paths as an alternative to the Camino. It’s not a heavy sell for a ‘staycation’, but I think when people see them and they see how beautiful they are they’ll be tempted, ‘why would you go on the Camino when you can do it at home?’
“Anyone who has gone on the Camino tells me that there are certain parts of it that are always packed, whereas the pilgrim paths here in Ireland are not as they are a little bit undiscovered.”
Derek tells how he has a great working relationship with weather and National Lottery presenter Nuala on The Summer Show.
“Nuala is an absolute delight to work with,” he tells me, adding with a laugh. “I couldn’t find a bad thing to say about her. I’ve been looking and I just simply can’t find anything.”
Mooney reveals that in one of the shows Nuala will be taking to the skies in a hot air balloon from Trim Castle in Co Meath.
“Apparently Ireland has a long history associated with hot air ballooning,” Derek says. “The first hot air balloon meeting in the world took place in Ireland.”
Down the line, Mooney himself will spend a day with the nuns in St Mary’s Abbey in Glencairn just outside Lismore, Co Waterford, which is the only Cistercian monastery for women in Ireland.
They pursue life of prayer and community, solitude and simplicity, work and hospitality.
“They are very self-sufficient,” Derek says. “They grow their own vegetables, they make the host for Holy Communion, which they distribute to churches all over Ireland. They also make greeting, anniversary and Mass cards, which they sell to support themselves. “It’s probably not the worst life in the world in terms of stress.
“I can actually see the benefit of it. The only thing that wouldn’t appeal to me is getting up early in the morning and praying… that would wreck my head.”
Mooney says that The Summer Show is going to be wonderful form of escapism and some light relief for viewers over the coming weeks.
“It’s going to be the perfect escape from all the bad news that’s out there at the moment,” he adds.
- THE Summer Show is on RTE One at 6.30pm on Sunday.