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It wasn't all doom and gloom: Here are 9 stories that made us smile in 2021


Ruairí McSorley, aka Frostbit Boy, at the spot where he started his swim in Co Kerry which ended 12 hours later with a rescue by the RNLI. Photo by Domnick Walsh

Ruairí McSorley, aka Frostbit Boy, at the spot where he started his swim in Co Kerry which ended 12 hours later with a rescue by the RNLI. Photo by Domnick Walsh

Ruairí McSorley, aka Frostbit Boy, at the spot where he started his swim in Co Kerry which ended 12 hours later with a rescue by the RNLI. Photo by Domnick Walsh

With Olympic golds, a walrus visit, and the surprising return of 'Frostbit' boy, it wasn't all doom and gloom in 2021.

From Imelda May's lockdown lover to Matt Damon's Supervalu bag (yes. again), here are the top 9 stories that made us smile this year.

1. Imelda May finds love in lockdown

One of the good news stories that caught everyone’s eye in February was Imelda May’s lockdown romance.

The singer told the Sunday Independent that she had met Niall McNamee in 2018 but lockdown ‘flung us together’. It wasn’t just romance: the pair started making music too, writing one of the tracks on her new album when he sang it ‘drunkenly on the phone’ to her.

Not only that, but Niall has described her as the love of his life.

Read it here: 'We hit it off and lockdown kind of flung us together' - Imelda May on finding love in lockdown

2. ‘Frostbit’ Boy resurfaces in an unlikely spot

"You wouldn’t be long getting frostbit," declared teenager Ruairí McSorley, instantly becoming a meme when he was interviewed by UTV walking to school in the snow in 2015.

The Derryman, now 24, showed up again this August in an unexpected place: 4km off the Kerry coast, surrounded by dolphins, after 12 hours at sea wearing only his swimming shorts.

No frostbite this time, but McSorley was treated for hypothermia. He later gave an exclusive interview to the Irish Independent, where he seemed to be taking the adventure very much in his stride. That said, he admitted, "maybe it wouldn’t have been the worst idea to have googled this before I jumped in…"

Read it here: Star of ‘you wouldn't be long getting frostbit’ video revealed to be swimmer saved 4km out at sea

And there's more here: 'None of us can believe he survived' - pod of dolphins surrounded swimmer stranded at sea for 12 hours

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3. Matt Damon addresses the Supervalu bag

Where would we have been in the first lockdown without Matt Damon sightings in Dalkey keeping us entertained on social media?

Staying in Dalkey while filming in Wicklow, the Bourne Identity superstar and his family were confined to a 2km radius just like the rest of us in March 2020. Spotting him became something of a local hobby – but he was instantly adopted as a local when he was photographed at the Vico baths carrying a Supervalu shopping bag.

In July this year, he made us smile all over again when he told Paul Whitington how much he cherished that time in Ireland and finally addressed that Supervalu bag. It was carrying his swimming togs, by the way.

Read it here: Matt Damon: ‘I had no idea the SuperValu bag would be such a thing, but to be fair, where else do you shop in Dalkey?’

4. Rowers go for gold

Is it possible to read or watch an interview with the Skibbereen rowers without smiling?

Five years after ‘pulling like a dog’ to second place in Beijing with his brother Gary, Paul O’Donovan was back in the Olympic rowing boat. This time he was paired with Fintan McCarthy and they brought home Ireland’s first rowing gold.

While the nation and their families were jubilant, the rowers themselves were calm. In typical O’Donovan style, Paul described winning the gold as “alright” and lamented that they might have to postpone their nightly game of Scrabble after their win.

Read it here: 'He's an animal' - rowers' delight at Olympic GOLD medal win as rivals in awe of O'Donovan and McCarthy

5. Describing Irish life in 20 points

For St Patrick’s Day this year, Amy O’Connor listed 20 tell-tale signs that you’re from this island, which had us smiling in sometimes reluctant recognition.

Referring to everyone as “your man” and “your one”? Getting texts from your mother every time the civil service is hiring? Terrified of being described as loving yourself?

There’s no getting away from that – you’re Irish.

Read it here: You know you’re Irish when... 20 tell-tale signs that you truly belong to the Emerald Isle

6. Hakuna Matata on Portland Row

Another Olympic high: Kellie Harrington’s gold medal lifted the entire country’s mood, and nowhere moreso than her home community on Dublin’s Portland Row.

Despite the time difference, neighbours and friends gathered outside her family home in the early hours of the morning to watch, celebrate and blare out what had become her theme song, Hakuna Matata.

Kellie’s proud dad Christy summed it up to Irish Independent journalist Conor Feehan: "You can’t get higher than that. It’s special. It has lifted the nation. The rowers led the charge, now Kellie. Cloud Nine is over. We’re beyond that. We’re after going higher than Richard Branson and all his gang."

Read it here: Amazing scenes live from Portland Row as celebrations are held for newly-crowned Olympian Kellie Harrington

7. The Gardaí put on their dancing shoes

In the height of lockdown in February, the Jerusalema dance filled our feeds and screens.

The appeal of a routine that could be done socially distanced was obvious – and An Garda Siochána certainly raised our spirits when they took up a challenge from the Swiss police to have a go themselves.

The video shows dozens of Gardaí and even two police horses throwing shapes at landmarks and stations across the country. It also resolved the mystery that been baffling Tralee residents, who had spotted their local Gardaí dancing on the station roof.

Read it here: Gardaí across Ireland respond to 'Jerusalema' dance challenge from Swiss police in bid to lift nation’s spirits

8. Walrus-watching in Valentia

Move over Matt Damon - by March 2021, we had someone else to watch for out for.

Valentia Island in Kerry played host to a giant walrus, who was thought to have fallen asleep on an iceberg and drifted too far south (and you thought waking up at the end of a bus route was bad).

The walrus was the first of its kind to be seen in Ireland, and even more remarkably, the first to identify it was five-year-old Muireann Houlihan, who came up with different names she thought would suit it.

Read it here: Girl who spotted Irish walrus has ideas for names – depending on if it’s a boy or a girl

9. A love story with a difference

We all know how the story goes: boy meets girl, and they all live happily ever after. But maybe not if the boy in question is a 38-year-old chimpanzee and the girl is a regular visitor to Antwerp zoo.

Sadly for our lovestruck couple, zookeepers decided it was no longer possible for Adie Timmermans to visit Chita and blow him kisses through the glass. It seems the primate was getting too attached to her and becoming isolated from his fellow chimpanzees.

A true Romeo and Juliet of our age.

Read it here: Woman who claims she is ‘having affair’ with chimp banned from visiting him by zoo staff

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