Dance stars: Celebrities putting best foot forward, says champ Karen
Professional dancer Karen Byrne has been taken aback by the level of competitiveness among this year's crop of contestants on 'Dancing With The Stars'.
As the show is in its third season, the reigning champion - who lifted the Glitterball trophy with country singer Jake Carter last year - reckoned participants are aware of what it takes to top the leader board.
"I can't believe it. Last year you had Bernard O'Shea, Rob Heffernan, Jake and Marty and they were all mental. They were all just having the craic. I think because it is the third season and people know what they're getting into," said Karen.
"The level is so high," she added. "I don't know who is going to be bad, we were talking among ourselves asking who is actually going to be voted out in the first week - or the first elimination, in week three."
'Mrs Brown's Boys' actress Eilish O'Carroll will be a hit with the viewers at home, according to champion Karen.
She also backed 'Love/Hate' star Johnny Ward, who she believes was in a "league of his own" performing the jive with partner Emily Barker on the first episode.
"I love Eilish, I think she is great. The public will love her," she said.
"And Johnny - that jive was in another world. Again, Johnny is a dancer and people will expect him to do well. He is in a league of his own."
There was a "special moment" for Karen last week too, as she performed a contemporary number with singer Jake, with whom she is now in a relationship.
Karen said watching their time on the show back on the night reminded her how "crazy" the experience had been.
"All three judges said Jake looked like he never stopped dancing. It was funny he was so calm, we just got out and enjoyed it," said Karen.
"They played the video of us, it was nice to watch our journey, the crazy journey that we had up to the point that we actually won. It was nice and a special moment.
"He's devastated this year, he asked can he come back and do a dance every week," she added, laughing.
Dubliner Karen opened the show with her new partner style guru and TV presenter Darren Kennedy last week. She thinks he will get used to performing in front of the camera as the weeks go on.
"You never know how they'll react. Definitely Darren danced better in rehearsals, they all did."