Clonmel model Andrea Roche is joining forces with the Rockwell Rovers Gaelic football team from New Inn for the new series of the popular RTE reality television show Celebrity Bainisteoir.
The former Miss Ireland was formally introduced to the players in November and in the next few weeks will begin preparing the team for its quarter-final clash with St. Michael's, who are based near Boyle in Roscommon, on Saturday, February 21st.
Andrea and Rockwell Rovers are hoping to enjoy the experience but are equally determined to win the competition, which will be shown on RTE from the end of March.
Andrea admits that it will be a major challenge for her because she doesn't come from a GAA background. As well as familiarising herself with the rules of the game she'll also have to pick a team from the panel of 30-35 players.
However she's sure to get plenty of assistance and guidance from her mentor, who's none other than Declan Browne, the former Tipperary footballer and dual All Star.
The new Rockwell Rovers bainisteoir she had turned down different role in reality TV shows in the past because some of them humiliated the contestants, and she didn't see the point of taking part.
But she liked the idea of being involved in Celebrity Bainisteoir because it would be a new experience and was "a reality show with meaning".
Although now resident in Dublin with husband P.J., she always promoted Clonmel and the county whenever she had the opportunity and this would be a good excuse to work near her home town.
She also knows the New Inn area well because she sat her Leaving Cert at the nearby Rockwell College after she attended the Loreto Secondary School in Clonmel.
Andrea thought that the Rockwell Rovers players – who didn't know who would be taking charge - were expecting comedian Pat Shortt when they were introduced to their manager in their dressing-room last November. Once the usual banter had subsided she said that the players were very polite, and she could tell that they were as enthusiastic and proud to be involved as she was.
She said there was a great spirit in Tipperary people and that would stand to them in the competition, which begins with a game in Roscommon against St. Michael's, whose celebrity bainisteoir is journalist John Waters.
She hoped that Rockwell Rovers would have plenty of support for the match in Roscommon on February 21st.
As well as her mentor Declan Browne, Andrea also has plans to bring in other well-known and successful names from the world of Gaelic football - whose names she's not revealing for the time being - to give inspirational pep-talks to her team.
"It's a great honour to be chosen to represent the county", said Rockwell Rovers captain Kevin Hally.
The club was one of a number of Tipperary Intermediate clubs nominated by the County GAA Board and got the nod after interviews had taken place with representatives of the television production company Animo Productions.
Kevin says that they hope to bring a few busloads of supporters to the quarter-final in Roscommon, and their involvement in the programme had created a great buzz about the place.Their initial meeting with Andrea Roche was filmed for the programme, and the New Inn pitch will also be the location for further scenes to be shot on Saturday, January 31st, when Declan Browne takes a training session; Wednesday, February 18th, when Andrea Roche will be in charge of another training session and Friday, February 20th, the day before the match in Roscommon.
The winners of the quarter-final will advance to a semi-final at the end of March, followed by the final at Parnell Park in Dublin in early April.
"It's a once-off experience for us players, and something we can look back on in years to come. We'll do our best for Andrea, the club, the West division and the county", Kevin Hally told The Nationalist.
"We're focusing on the first game, and if we get over that anything is possible", he added. And with Declan Browne also on board he said there would be no half-measures and the preparation would be thorough.
They all wanted to enjoy Celebrity Bainisteoir but there was a serious side to it too and they were all determined to win the competition, said Kevin, who is also a coaching officer with the club and will be a selector with the Tipperary Minor football team this year.
Rockwell Rovers have won the West Intermediate football title for the last two years. They lost the County Intermediate Final in 2007 and last year were beaten by the eventual county champions Clonmel Og.
The club was involved in Championship action late into last year. Kevin Hally says that while they have a good foundation of fitness the panel still has a lot of work to do before the competition begins.
The other six teams already confirmed for Celebrity Bainisteoir are Sneem (Kerry), Dromahair (Leitrim), Cuala Casements (Dublin), Glasdrumman (Down) and St. Michael's (Roscommon).The final team participating will be an as yet unnamed club from London.
Glasdrumman will be managed by RTE personality Derek Davis.