When the news that Daniel O’Donnell was to take to the Strictly dance floor broke, Ireland went into instant meltdown.
From Cork to his own stronghold in Donegal, the jokes about O’Donnell’s Strictly hopes came on thick and fast, with one drive time radio host struggling to comprehend what he’d just heard on his station’s news bulletin.
Wee Daniel? On Strictly? Surely they were having a laugh.
And yet tonight, when he exited the competition, a nation wept for its fallen fancy footed hero.
Daniel didn’t need to claim glitterball glory to win the competition because he had d already achieved a far greater victory. In just a few short weeks he displayed a sense of humour and fun that left those of us who’d merrily jumped on the joke bandwagon for years feeling a little bit disappointed in ourselves.
It’s often easy to pick fun at cult figures who’ve carved out a niche for themselves singing classics your nan danced to her in hey day. And when they just so happen to host mass tea parties for their fervent fans you sometimes feel as though the jokes are not just merited – they’re necessary.
O’Donnell did something rather special during his Strictly stint though, almost subtly addressing the most regularly rolled out jibes and killing them with kindness.
He took to the floor with gleeful abandon, giving quite decent performances that outshone many a ‘comedic value’ couple of old.
And when it came to dance floor criticism he took it on the chin with grace and good humour, never sulking or snapping but joking along instead.
This is the man who sells out cruise ships, hosts numerous TV series and makes a mean cup of tae. Nothing Bruno, Len, Darcy or Craig could say would change that.
And a systematic Daniel O’Zuko crotch thrust proved the singer knew he had absolutely nothing to lose.
I might never pay for an album, nor make the trip to Donegal for tea, but when it came to sheer Saturday night entertainment Daniel O’Donnell never failed to win Strictly Come Dancing for me.