Conor Gilsenan speaking on episode one of The Apprentice on BBC 1 last night (Thursday).

Mullingar’s Conor makes Apprentice debut

Day one of BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’ aired last night, and Mullingar’s Conor Gilsenan survived the first iteration of Baron Sugar of Amstrad’s dreaded “you’re fired” catchphrase.

Former Leinster and London Irish rugby star Conor gave the business baron and his sidekicks no real reason to turf him out after the first episode, playing it cool and easing himself into a landscape that will surely become rockier in the coming weeks.

Quiet, understated and collegiate, Conor stood in stark contrast to some of his fellow contestants – male and female – whose brashness and often self-defeating confidence came to the fore.

The sixteen candidates to become Alan Sugar’s next right-hand man/woman were divided up on gender lines, and asked to come up with a marketing and branding strategy for a cruise liner.

The boys’ effort crashed and burned, but in fairness to Conor, it wasn’t down to his ideas. The former Clongowes and UCD student quarterbacked a creditable publicity video – a “blockbuster” initiative, as he described it – but where the strategy fell down was on the design of a logo for the cruise ship, which the boys named ‘Seaquility’.

The logo, initially conceived as a combination of an ocean wave and the body of a relaxing man, ultimately resembled a snot or a rotten banana.

“If that did go viral, I'd want to know why,” Lord Sugar said in his typically unforgiving style. “Unless the logo did actually turn into a turd. It's not selling me cruises, is it?”

The logo was a bone of contention throughout the show, leading some of the loudest voices in the boys’ camp – Akeem, Akshay and Harry – to go for each other’s jugulars. It was these three who ended up on Sugar’s chopping block, with Harry told to pack his mini-suitcase.

Suitably on Nollaig na mBan, victory in the first episode went to the women, whose marketing strategy – led by the ever-so-bossy Kathryn Louise Burn – was deemed by Sugar to have an “overall synergy”.

Episode two of ‘The Apprentice’ airs at 9pm next Thursday on BBC 1, when the team will get to work on designing and marketing a new toothbrush. And judging by the sneak preview, we’ll be seeing a lot more of our own Conor.