RTE's Ryan Tubridy is celebrating an average viewership of 538,000 people for Friday night’s Late Late Country Special.
The figure is down 23,000 on last year, although the show had a 47 per cent audience share and 591,300 audience peak on the night.
Among the guests were family duos Robert Mazelle and his father, Susan McCann and her granddaughter, Dancing with the Stars’ Cliona Hagan and her sister Nicole, and Jimmy Buckley and his daughter Claudia.
Tubridy also performed a duet of ‘King of the Road’ with Daniel O’Donnell, to the bemusement of viewers and indeed himself.
“I was happy enough to go along with the fun but I wasn’t sure if I was happy to do it and then when it got closer to it I did start getting nervous and a bit cold of foot,” he tells Independent.ie
“But then I was like, look at all these people, they’re so lovely, they’re having a laugh, they would appreciate if you were game for a laugh with them.”
While he says he would have been “too self-conscious” to sing live on TV a few years ago, he’s prepared to pick up the microphone again in the name of entertainment, despite the detractors.
“'If you’re up for the craic, we’ll take you down from the craic and kick your head in!'”, he jokes of the critics. “You can’t win but you can try, and the fun is in the trying and not caring and that’s beautiful.
“How can you knock it really? It was so wonderfully awful.”
With just three Late Late Shows left in the season, Tubridy is gearing up to lay down the plot to his second children’s book featuring the character of Hilary the sheep following the success of last year's Christmas release.
This time she’ll be heading to the Ploughing Championships - “I just love the Irishness of it” - and he says he’ll be spending time on a sheep farm to “study their behaviour”.
Although he has penned non-fiction books for adults previously, he will not tackle another until he has finished hosting the Late Late Show.
However, while the presenter is heading into his eleventh year at the helm, he has no end date in sight, he says, adding, “I don’t have a game plan.”
Speaking at the launch of the ninth annual Coca-Cola Thank You Fund, the broadcaster reveals he became ambassador because was particularly impressed by one of the book-related initiatives the fund supported last year.
The Children’s Books Ireland project was one of 13 non-profit community groups and organisations which received funding ranging from €5,000 to €20,000 to support their work for young people.
The project provided homeless teenagers in family hubs in Dublin with access to books and patrons who visited to inspire and engage them in reading.
“I hate that there are younger people in hubs. I hate that there’s anyone in hubs, but particularly younger people. I just think it’s so sad and so unfair,” says Tubridy.
“Look, what’s a book going to do for a young person in a hub who would rather be in a house? I get that, but, one, it’s education, and two it’s escapism. When I was a kid books were my friend.”
He adds, “If you can get kids reading, especially in the hub, if they can go into a corner with The Hate You Give or the Robin Stevens series it’ll take them somewhere else and suspend the disbelief that they’re in this situation now.”
The 2019 Coca-Cola Thank you Fund is offering €100,000 in grants to youth-oriented charities, sporting organisations, voluntary groups and NGOs working with young people aged 16-25. This year will see the fund exceed €1m in total since 2011 donated to non-profit groups across Ireland.
However, for many people the Coca-Cola brand, along with others, is traditionally associated with fizzy drinks which have come under scrutiny in recent years amid a growing obesity problem. While he understands this, Tubridy says he is “not anti Coca-Cola”.
“I drink one for lunch most days, but that’s by the by, that’s not why I did this,” he says. “I’m not a spokesperson for Coca-Cola, but when you go into the shop you see Coke Zero, Diet Coke, Coke with nothing in it.
“You have the choice, so just choose carefully, drink responsibly, moderation. It’s the same with everything in life.”
Ryan is calling on community leaders across Ireland to apply for funding from the 2019 Coca-Cola Thank You Fund at coca-cola.ie/thankyou before Friday July 12. The winners will be announced at Zeminar, Ireland’s biggest Generation Z conference, in October.