The Ryans reflect on an eventful 2016

Donegal family enjoying life after TV fitness challenge

Kilmacrennan family the Ryans kept Donegal people enthralled with their exploits on RTÉ's Ireland's Fittest Family. Husband and wife Danny and Maria tell Donegal Democrat reporter, Declan Magee, what the experience was like now that the series has come to a conclusion. The Ryans finished third overall.

By Declan Magee


By Declan Magee


Ryans enjoying life after TV fitness challenge

Oran, Katie, Keane, Jordan and Elana with Danny and Maria Ryan

The Ryan family from Kilmacrennan are now looking forward to a relaxing Christmas together after a hectic few months which saw them finish third in the RTÉ programme, Ireland’s Fittest Family.

Father Danny, and daughter Alannah (16) and sons Jordan (17) and Keane (22) came from a field of 100 entrants to the final which was aired last Sunday.

While they were competing, Maria Ryan cheered her husband and children on along with the younger two Ryans, Odhran (9) and Katie (7).

The experience began in May when Maria entered the family without their prior knowledge.

They were one of the 100 families selected to attend fitness tests in Athlone in July.

After making it to the televised part of the show, they made it through every round for the four weeks they appeared until they made it through to the final, which was televised last Sunday.

In the programme they competed on some of the toughest obstacle courses in the country.

The filming finished in August and the family then had to keep their progress to themselves.

They watched their televised exploits in Arena 7 in Letterkenny with friends and family and then gathered in the Station House Hotel to watch the final.

The programme attracted big interest and the family soon became aware of the huge support they had locally.

Speaking this week Danny, a former boxer who runs a gym, said the family enjoyed the whole experience but they were glad that it had come to an end. “It is a bit of an anti-climax,” he said. “I suppose it was good to get it over with because it has taken up a lot of time and it was definitely nice to see a conclusion to it.”

The Ryans were confident that they would get through the fitness tests,” Danny said.

“In the fitness tests we performed very well and we knew we would perform well and it was nice that we got to that stage.”

The family trained throughout and were frequent visitors to Extreme Adventure in Letterkenny as part of their training regime.

The following stages were very tough but it was a good experience for them all, especially the children, Danny said.

“For the children it was a good experience, good exposure for them and good for their confidence and it gave them a bit of self belief that they can do it and take part in something as tough as that. And it also gives them great memories for the rest of their lives.”

For Danny the best part of the experience was competing with and spending time with the older children. “We are able to complete as a family. With teenagers you don't have much contact with them when they get over a certain age - they are in their rooms and on social media. But we trained together and connected together. At this stage in our lives it brought us more together and it gave us something different to focus on during the day. It was healthy, competitive, challenging and it was a real team bonding experience.

Maria's role

Danny also acknowledged the role played by Maria, who as well as entering the family to the competition, acted as team manager, organiser and driver.

Running numerous hot washes to wash their gear during the months of training is another memory Maria has of the whole experience.

Maria is of course very proud of the family. When she filled in the form in May she says she never expected them to get to the final.

She says it has been a great experience for the whole family, including the two younger children.

Oran and Katie deserve particular credit for keeping the vow of secrecy over the family’s exploits in the programme, she said.

“They enjoyed it and they were very good - they knew the result and they never let it slip.”

The family have had a huge reaction to the programme and have even found themselves signing autographs.

They have been visiting schools and have a big fan club, especially with the younger children, Maria said.

“They are visiting any schools that want them and the reaction has been its brilliant.”

For Danny, visiting schools has also been a real high of the whole experience.

“We get a great reaction and it’s a real buzz for me going into the national schools and seeing the excitement on the faces of the young kids. Kids relate to it (the show) like a famous sportsperson or something and it might encourage people to compete or take up a sport. A lot of kids are talking to their mums and dads about it and it has to have a positive effect”

Maria and Danny say they have had a lot of help locally and have especial thanks for Gerard O’Donnell of Extreme Adventure, sports psychologist David McGinley, Enda Nichols at Arena 7, Terence Diver of Hyundai in Letterkenny, Tommy and Donna Gallagher, sports physios; and Brian McCormick of McCormick Sports.

Maria has been overwhelmed by the messages of support they have received and thinks the interest and support is to do with the family nature of the programme.

“It’s a family show - something that all the family sit down and watch together. They enjoy watching the other families taking part and they say ‘someday, we could do that’.”