Pat McEvoy’s weekly reviews as published in the Waterford News & Star
REVIEW: Carbally Community Centre, Ballymacaw: Countdown Convention
8 out of ten cats does Countdown according to comedian Alan Carr and 19 uber-cool and beyond-clever dudes and dam-smart-divas are in Woodstown for the third Waterford Countdown Convention. And it’s all the brainchild of Eoin Jackson from Dunmore who became one of that rare breed of ‘Octochamps’ – winner of eight successive games on Channel 4.
Most of the competitors have travelled significant distances from places as far flung as Britain, Donegal and Mooncoin for the open competition. And they’re all nerdy sharp. Curiosity brought me last year and so, doesn’t Eoin just go and invite my good self to improve on my 2018 placing. “No need to worry,” says the bould Eoin, “most of them aren’t that hot.” Yeahhhh…. rrrrright!
Countdown is a very popular British TV game show involving word and number puzzles. It is produced by ITV Studios and broadcast on Channel 4. It’s currently presented by Nick Hewer, assisted by Rachel Riley, with regular lexicographer Susie Dent and was the very first programme to be aired on Channel 4. As we speak, series 77 has just been broadcast since it first aired on November 2, 1982.
With over 6,500 episodes, Countdown is one of the longest-running game shows in the world. The show attracts big audience numbers – despite its afternoon slot – and even has online groups and a bizarre, late-night spin off with Alan Carr’s ‘8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown’.
These contestants just love words. The shape of them, the colour and texture, the nuances and variations they bring. They listen with their eyes and see with their ears. And when that magical nine letter word sounds, oohs and aahs fill the air. Along with Eoin Jackson’s eclectic taste in rock n’ roll. Everyone wants to win but, in the heel of the hunt, there’s an innate generosity that acknowledges talent and ability beyond our own.
There’s wall-charts and flow-charts and a ticking clock that booms out every descending second and sends us all into collective hysteria. Organiser Eoin Jackson is the host and is annoyingly correct in disallowing words. He bats away despairing suggestions with explanations like ‘not in use’ and weird spellings with apologies of ‘sadly not’. My brave use of a Shakespearean term is batted away with a cursory ‘the Oxford dictionary demands more usage’. If only the Bard were here.
How did I get on? Well, actually, not too badly this year. And it’s mainly due to the luck of the draw that sees me avoid all the big-hitters in the six-match morning sessions. I only manage to lose one and find myself playing in the top division finals where, sadly, my overachievement is found out against a couple of real-deal octochamps like the lovely Rose from Arranmore, Co. Donegal. Never meet your heroes… or heroines… because it always ends in failure.
Still I’m pretty chuffed really because, folks, the real deal is a lot more intense than watching the programme in the comfort of the home where we can constantly delude ourselves that ‘yeah… I’d have got that one… easy’! Yeah… rrrriggght! And I’m not even going to mention the conundrums because I only got the sum total of one!
The day pounds away and, incredibly, two meals are provided for an entry fee of €15. Those who stayed two nights paid the massive sum of €35 including meals and accommodation. I don’t know how you could beat those rates.
Cream always rises to the top and my first opponent Hazel Drury from Ballina defeats Mark Murray from Dublin in the final. There are other prizes and the craic continues long into the night in the local. Eoin Jackson has done a splendid job and is already talking about next year.