Countdown Champion of Champions’ Donegal roots

Countdown Champion of Champions’ Donegal roots
A 21-year-old from Luton, whose father is from Donegal, is one of the most successful contestants of all time on the classic TV quiz show Countdown.

A 21-year-old from Luton, whose father is from Donegal, is one of the most successful contestants of all time on the classic TV quiz show Countdown.

Conor Travers is the youngest person ever to win Countdown, which he first did in 2006 when he was just fourteen. He narrowly lost out on winning the Champion of Champions title that year. But Conor more than made up for it five years ago, when he won the crown in a special 25th Anniversary programme and again, on March 1 of this year, when he won the 30th Anniversary Champion of Champions title. Conor also shares the honour, with just one other person, of achieving the highest ever score in the history of the programme.

Back in 2006, host Des Lynam was so impressed by Conor’s ability to come up with little known words such as craniates, tzardoms, protamine, valorise and renegado - even if he wasn’t sure what they meant - that he dubbed the talent ‘‘The Conor Principle”.

Conor’s father Martin, who now lives in Waterford, is originally from Ballinakillew Mountain, near Laghey. Martin’s parents, Mary and Frank still live and farm at the homeplace. Conor has always been, and still is, a frequent visitor there.

“He loves Donegal,” Mary told the Democrat this week. “He was here at Christmas and will be here again at Easter. Every break he gets from school, he comes to Donegal.”

Conor who is currently completing his Masters in Maths at Cambridge, said: “Donegal holds a very special place in my heart. “Part of it is because I have such great childhood memories of summers and holidays there.

“Part of it is the quiet - the peacefulness - and the wonderful scenery. It’s a great place to escape, so different from the urban landscape I spend the rest of the year in. If have work to do, it’s very easy to knuckle down, with no distractions.

“But the main attraction is definitely spending time with family.”

This quiet young man, who jogs and plays cricket, is very modest about his extraordinary achievements on Countdown.

“I think it meant more to me this time than when I was fourteen.

“Back then, it all happened so fast and I was so young that I don’t think I was really able to take it all in.

“This time, being that bit older, I was better able to appreciate the high standard of the people I was competing against. Also, knowing that it’s probably the last time I’ll be on TV, it meant that bit more.”

As for future ambitions? They’re very straightforward. “I hope I get a job when I finish my studies, in Maths, of course, although I don’t know exactly which field yet.”