Ultimate Hell Week's Pete Finn insists over 40s ‘don’t have to have a beer belly and give up’

I’m married with three kids as well, but I try and find the time to make sure I keep myself fit and try and be involved with as many things as I can’

Peter Finn. Picture: Miki Barlok.

Hell Week. Picture: Miki Barlok

Peter Finn with Dermot Bannon

Eugene MastersonSunday World

Pete Finn may come across on TV as the cheeky builder who helps Dermot Bannon and others renovate houses so it came as a surprise to many when they saw him being the oldest competitor popping up on Ultimate Hell Week: The Professionals.

But the 47-year-old is in fact a super fit athlete with an accomplished discipline in a wide variety of sports, something which he admits helped him through the gruelling activities he was put through in Co Cork by former Irish Army Rangers specialists.

Father-of-three Pete has

  • PLAYED league of Ireland soccer for Athlone, Dundalk and Bray Wanderers
  • REGULARLY lined out for his local out for St Mary’s Gaelic football team in Saggart and also stars on the Over 40s Dublin Master’s GAA side
  • TRAINS in MMA with Conor McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh in SBG and is a martial arts expert
  • COMPETED in swimming as a child and lately enjoys open sea swimming

“The DS (instructor) likes to remind me I was the oldest person on the event,” Pete tells the Sunday World. “I think Fiona O’Carroll (from Mrs Brown’s Boys) was my nearest age. David Gillick (former Ireland runner) is nine years younger than me. Pretty much everyone on the course was 10, 11, 12, a good bit younger. There were a couple of lads in their early 30s. They are all are 10 years or more younger than me and they’re pretty much all sports athletes bar Johnny Ward (actor).

“It’s an interesting position to be in. I’ve played high performance sports all my life. It’s a bonus. I suppose it’s something an advocate of, that just because you’re over 40 doesn’t mean that you have to have a beer belly and kind of give up what you do.”

Hell Week. Picture: Miki Barlok

He adds: “I’m married with three kids as well, but I try and find the time to make sure I keep myself fit and try and be involved with as many things as I can. It’s not easy and its hard obviously as the kids get older, but it’s been great to represent the middle-aged people and show we have a little bit to contribute.”

Being propelled into extreme physical situations on Hell Week is a lot different to his home life in Saggart in southwest county Dublin.

“I have three girls, they are five, seven, and nine. It’s all princesses and unicorns and mermaids in my house, so I get to the building site and the football pitch to get my testosterone levels back up, and Hell Week was the same,” he smiles. “The phone was put away. It was hard to be away from the family for the time I was in it as well, but it was a brilliant experience to be able to get that detox at this time of my life.”

The first week saw the 20 celebrity competitors puking up when they were put into a house filled with CG gas (TV presenter Paul Ryder was so petrified of seeing what happened others coming out he immediately pulled out of the show).

“The CS gas was something I had never experienced before. I suppose that’s what exactly what Hell Week does with you, it put you into places that you’re never been before and even though I had trained quite hard for the event, there’s only so much training you can actually do for what is pretty much very new territory in lots of different ways,” explains Pete.

“I did find it very interesting and as my time in the show goes on, the constant new challenges I really enjoyed it. To be honest I didn’t expect to get as much satisfaction and gratification for achieving and learning new things. When it happened it was something that really struck me, an unexpected bonus.”

Pete was first introduced to TV viewers when he helped Dermot Bannon on Room To Improve, and then himself got to co-present Home Rescue. He runs a building company Finn Flynn with his business partner Mark Flynn.

“We do an awful lot of conservation work, so we do a lot of refurbishment work on period homes, the old Edwardian and Georgian buildings. A lot of highly sensitive jobs in Trinity College. We also do one-off high-end house also. Renovation on high end houses and new builds is the areas of the market we got into,” he notes.

Again, it’s all a far cry from Hell Week, where on week two he had to get in a helicopter for the first time in his life and then jump from a height from it into the choppy sea below.

“I suppose I have an advantage in that I have done quite a lot of extreme sports over the years,” he admits. “I’ve always put myself into uncomfortable situations and maybe extreme situations is what people may call it, but I don’t find them that extreme because I’m just sort of used to it. That was definitely and advantage to me in the show, in terms of jumping into sea. I’ve never jumped out of a helicopter in my life.”

Week three saw him and the others donning gas masks while carrying weights running up through a tunnel: wearing goggles with sea water immersed in them and not being allowed to breath through their noses; and wrestle in mud on a beach with others to fight over a tyre while a torrential rainstorm belted down on top of them.

Peter Finn with Dermot Bannon

“That’s the thing with Hell Week, you may be comfortable with one event, but they will find an event that puts you way out of your comfort zone and that comes fairly soon for everybody. There’s not one person on Hell Week that does not go into a place that they’ve never been before,” he points out.

“I suppose my biggest phobia is phobia of failure. I’m very competitive. I’ve been a high achiever all my life and how I’ve been like that is because I don’t like losing and I don’t lose failing, I’ve got very high standards when it comes to what I do in work. I’ve very high standards in my own personal performances, so if I had been DO’s (ejected) or eliminated early in Hell Week, that would have been my worst nightmare.”

Pete is now down to the final 11, and confirms he has bonded with the others and made friends for life with many of them.

“Without a shadow of a doubt. If you play with a football team and you win a league or a cup there’s a bond that’s pretty much impossible to break, but when you are brought to the depths of your soul like we have been and you are in that with another person it’s pretty much only they understand how you feel and understand the environment of it, so that creates a very unique bond that you could never recreate,” he stresses.

He's also delighted he is raising money for his chosen charity, Children’s Health Foundation.

“I’m also involved in a company called Lugg Woods Events Ltd and we basically we run seasonal family events and we see families coming through ever season, whether it’s Easter, Halloween or Christmas Some people have really hard lives, with health issues. I always felt for people and said if I had an opportunity to help a charity it would be a charity that contributes to that cohort of people and without doubt the children’s health foundation, they are there for anybody no matter who you are or what your life situation is, if you’re got a sick child they are going to help you it was a no brainer for me to choose that charity,” he notes.

  • Ultimate Hell Week: The Professionals RTÉ1 Wednesday 9.30pm

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