First Dates Ireland: Maybe it’s an Irish thing, but this lot were all so modest, self-effacing and good-humoured

Some of those who appeared on First Dates Ireland. R-L Rachel, Conor and Sinead

Darragh McManus

First Dates Ireland returned for a second series tonight, and lo… it was pretty damn good.

This Hibernian take on a tried-and-tested UK format was a bit of a smash hit with audiences last year. Even I enjoyed it, and I’m a misanthropic old grump who hates Reality TV and has Sartre’s “hell is other people” tattooed on my chest. (Yes, it hurt. A lot.)

Having reacquainted myself with the show, I think I’ve isolated what exactly it is about First Dates Ireland that makes us like it:

1. The concept is good, first off: love, romance, fine dining, nice surrounds – it’s tailor-made for undemanding but pleasurable bubblegum-telly.


2. The people on it are usually very nice. That’s probably an underrated, or even unnoticed quality, on most TV nowadays, but it’s hugely important in life, and hugely important to us viewers. We like nice people, and we like watching people being nice on the screen. This sounds so simplistic that it couldn’t possibly be true – and yet it is true.

3. Maybe it’s an Irish thing, but this lot tonight were all so modest and self-effacing and good-humoured about themselves. Just to take one example: Delia from Dublin was a show-stoppingly gorgeous model. Did she behave in any way as if she knew she was show-stoppingly gorgeous, and it made her special? Did she act all entitled and irritating? She did not. Delia was totally sweet and good-natured, like everyone else on the show.

4. There’s no element of competition, which means two good things: first, no stupid judging and votes and marks and all that old crapola; and second, nobody is acting the tool in a bid to “win” some pointless contest that isn’t worth winning anyway. Everyone is chilled.

5. You don’t tend to get that “type” which infects most Reality TV: be that wannabe singing stars, weirdo attention-seekers, sociopathic weasels, those ass-hats who use terms like “I’m in it to win it” and “you don’t get anywhere by being nice”, or whoever. These were – taking into consideration the fact that they’re willing to appear on telly – relatively normal folks.


6. There’s a good mix of couples and personalities. Paddy and Lauren were giggly and cheerful; Rachel was bubbly and Conor was sound; Delia was a delight and the other Conor was cool (and looked a bit like Casey Affleck – always a bonus); Sinead was sparky and Antonio was a bit of a dude. Even Timmie from Clare, who came across as a little egotistical initially, turned out to be a pretty good guy. As was Richard, his ultimately disappointed date. Which leads on to…

7. It almost always ends well. Four of the five couples agreed to a second date. Unfortunately Timmie didn’t feel the spark with Richard; he did; thus he was upset for a finish. Poor ould divil.


8. The cringe factor is surprisingly low, considering this is a show about first dates. Yes, there’s some awkwardness but the couples are themselves talking about that awkwardness, making jokes about it, robbing it of its power and eventually dissipating it. First Dates Ireland is relaxing to watch. I for one – having suffered through one too many cover-your-face excruciating moments on modern comedy shows – like this.

9. Mateo the maître d’ remains a total charmer. Seriously, the guy could be a plausible stand-in for Tom Hiddlestone’s character on The Night Manager. Only better-looking. And his waitress and barman, Alice and Ethan, are the bomb too.

10 PS Brill idea: Tom Hiddlestone presents First Dates Ireland while Mateo becomes the new Bond. Who’s with me?

Twitter exploded with #FirstDatesIRL trending. Here is a selection of the tweets: