Westmeath Bachelor Competition hosts Sarah Jane Foster and Shane Barkey with the 2022 Bachelor, Bryan Murphy. Photo: Gary McGivney

Bryan's accordion medley swings the crowd and the judges

That’s a hard act to follow, we often hear it said, and in the case of the Westmeath Bachelor 2022, Bryan Murphy, it was.

A born entertainer, is how the 25-year-old Kerryman described himself in the pre-event publicity, and he proved that with a brilliant performance on the stage at Mullingar Arts Centre on Sunday evening.

Bryan set the tone for what would be a great evening’s entertainment, in which there were far too many stars to mention them all. Chief among them, though, were the 13 contestants, the hosts Sarah Jane Foster and Shane Barkey (brilliant job) – and the crowd.

The crowd were fantastic throughout. Dressed to the nines and clearly up for the craic, they were good humoured and fully engaged with the action on the stage, from start to finish. They cheered, they jeered (in jest), they laughed, they applauded, and they clearly enjoyed themselves.

The 2022 Bachelors, the hosts, the judges and event organisers at Mullingar Arts Centre on Sunday night. Photo by Gary McGivney

The crowd also earned the praise of the celebrity judges, Louis Walsh, Doireann Garrihy, Anne Doyle and Nathan Carter. They’re all experienced performers and no shy personalities, but they were shaded, just a bit, by the audience.

Those bachelors were brilliant too, and the 12 that followed the eventual winner, Bryan Murphy, had to bring their A games. Bryan was outstanding and a deserving winner. He was natural and at ease as the judges put their questions to him, and he lit up the auditorium when he got his accordion and played a medley of Mamma Mia, Hey Baby and Tell Me Ma. He was brilliant and the crowd loved him.

Doireann Garrihy about to announce the winner.

Bryan started things on such a high that then next few lads were under pressure. Aishan Patil, Denis Cronin, Kieran Nolan and Robert O’Reilly, did well and showed their charm and skills, from singing and making cocktails to a somewhat incongruous talk on credit unions (with a punchline), but it was the closing act before the first interval that really lit the place up again.

That was Paddy Geraghty from Tyrrellspass. He got a rousing reception when he came on stage and again for his efforts performing Little Lion Man, a Mumford and Sons song. He’s probably not the best singer but he gave it socks and they loved him for it.

After the interval, Dermot Mullen made the best entrance of the night, and had great fun teasing the judges, Louis Walsh in particular, who seemed unsure what to make of him. Dermot charmed them all and had them confused and in stitches with his Dolly Trolley skit.

Andy Fox was wearing wellies, which he "bought the other day to go to the bog, but that shower up in the Dáil won’t let us go, so I thought I might as well get some use out of them".

Ben Mulligan was channelling Harry Styles with his outfit and Jimi Hendrix with his electric guitar, and Aaron Murphy told us "the mother is the worst critic!" before doing a Boyzone medley.

Kyle Smyth was another to get a huge reception from the crowd. Asked what his next adventure would be, he told Doireann, "the Fence later this evening" and he admitted his most embarrassing quality was putting on an English accent, when he and friends used to pretend they were footballers on nights out...

David Goodliff was the wild card entry, and he was over from the UK to show that people in their 60s can also do it and have fun. David had taken part in the Westmeath Bachelor in the 1990s and was loving being back in Mullingar.

He and his puppet friend Darleen concluded the main part of the show, and there was a break while the judges consulted. Before they revealed the winner, Nathan Carter moved from his judge’s stool to centre stage where he sang two Joe Dolan classics, Good Looking Woman and (of course) the Westmeath Bachelor.

Then, when Bryan Murphy was announced as winner, the response from the other bachelors was warm and genuine, while Bryan was nearly the opposite of his earlier self; he could hardly talk he was so emotional.

It was a great finale to a great weekend and the thanks exchanged on stage were highly deserved; they were for the main event organisers, Niamh and Tomás Nally, Shane Barkey and Derek Irwin, for Shane’s co-host Sarah Jane Foster, for the sound and film crews and the arts centre.

The organising team are already thinking about next year.