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Big break Comic Sinead Quinlan says she is still 'fangirling' around Dustin the Turkey despite gig on The Den

"It's just so crazy. Nothing about my past year has been in any way normal."

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Sinéad with Zig and Zag, Dustin, presenter Ray D’Arcy and musical guest CMAT on The Den

Sinéad with Zig and Zag, Dustin, presenter Ray D’Arcy and musical guest CMAT on The Den

Sinéad with Zig and Zag, Dustin, presenter Ray D’Arcy and musical guest CMAT on The Den

IT WAS just over a year ago that Sinéad Quinlan was mentally packing her bags to join her pals in Australia.

But one pandemic and chance television big break later, and the rising Cork star has secured a place in Irish TV history.

Fresh new face Sinéad must have been the most Googled woman in the land when childhood favourite The Den returned to RTÉ after a decade last November.

Even the 28 year-old can't quite believe that she wound up on prime time Sunday evening television alongside extraterrestrial legends Zig and Zag, Dustin the Turkey and presenter Ray D'Arcy after the plug was pulled on her stand-up work due to the pandemic.

"People were just like, 'Who the hell is this?'," laughs Sinéad of her overnight fame. "Everyone said, 'She's literally after coming out of nowhere'.

"It's just so crazy. Nothing about my past year has been in any way normal.

"I've a load of big people like Una Healy following me on social media. I'm like, 'Oh my God, how do these people know who I am?'"

Although the Carrignavar woman's success has been lightning fast, it's not entirely a bolt out of the blue.

The nascent comedian won TV talent hunt 'Stand Up and Be Funny' which, fortuitously, aired on The Ray D'Arcy Show in 2019 before being offered the role of 'roving' reporter on The Den.

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Sinéad was an instant hit

Sinéad was an instant hit

Sinéad was an instant hit

Despite being headhunted by the host, with just a handful of live gigs under her belt, Sinéad confesses she was terrified about joining the reboot which started life as Dempsey's Den in 1986, before she was even born.

"It's such an iconic show I was a bit nervous," she tells Magazine+ of the smash hit seven-week run. "I was like, 'Oh God, I don't want to take away from it at all'. I wanted to add to it.

"I do still be fangirling - Dustin the Turkey liked a tweet of mine there yesterday and I was like, 'Oh my God!' I find it crazy that he even knows who I am."

"It was the best craic ever," she adds of the madcap show. "I never really knew what was going to happen every week. There was kind of a rough theme, but the lads do not do scripts.

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"Nobody spoke about Covid, so it was just good for the head as well - total shut-off."

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Dustin The Turkey

Dustin The Turkey

Dustin The Turkey

And that obvious change of pace from lockdown wasn't the only about-turn for the qualified social worker, who remembers being painfully shy as a teen before finding her voice at college.

"In secondary school, I was so quiet," says the star, who also landed her own show Seriously, Sinéad? on RTÉ Player.

"I was literally the most introverted person ever. I'd say people from school who haven't met me since are saying, 'What is going on here?'

"I think doing presentations in college is where my stand-up started in a weird way.

"When I started them, I was terrible - the voice would be shaking and I'd be getting a stress rash. I had to wear a scarf. By the end of college, I was used to public speaking."

Online dating, bikini fuzz and lockdown cabin fever are just some of the topics tackled by the comic whose brand of face-palm funny has secured her a second season of the web series.

"When I was growing up, my dad Eddie loved Fawlty Towers and Father Ted," she says. "He is hilarious - he was probably my comedy hero growing up.

"Nowadays, I love Maeve Higgins, Aisling Bea, Miranda Hart and Sarah Millican. They're kind of goofy and they totally own it, and I think I'm a bit like that as well - a bit weird, but kind of owning your own weirdness."

As well as penning new material in the hopes of a return to the stage, Sinéad also hosts interactive online comedy quizzes, available to book through wompevents.com, while the country to continues to stay at home.

"It's probably the last thing people want to be doing," she jokes. "People would much rather be out in the pub having a few pints, but it's actually great craic.

"It's fun because it's interactive, you're not sitting there listening to me reading out questions, and the questions are funny."

Back offline, RTÉ's newest star says she's loving her new-found fame in the north Cork city village where she still lives with her family.

"They're so proud," she beams of the local reaction to her success. "It's actually the cutest thing ever.

"Everyone's really buzzing, which is so nice. I did a play for my local drama group - that was probably my first proper stage experience - so they're taking credit for me!"

After Ray D'Arcy confirmed the return of the Zogly brothers this autumn, meanwhile, it's not a case of 'Den there, done that' for Sinéad, who's just waiting for the call.

"Oh definitely, 100pc," she enthuses of hopefully rejoining the gang later this year. "There'd be no stopping me."

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