Dancing with the Stars 2022: Nina Carberry triumphs in a lump-in-throat final

Erica Cody and Ellen Keane were the true stars of this three-month feel-good contest

Amid tears, twirls and tiaras, jockey Nina Carberry and pro dancer Pasquale La Rocca have been crowned champions of Dancing with the Stars 2022 (RTÉ One, 6.30pm).

It’s an emotion-packed decider, with all four competitors going above and beyond in their quest for the Glitterball Trophy. But in the end, Carberry, front-runner through the season, clinches the public vote, along with impressing the judges.

“I can’t sum it up,” says the nearly-speechless Carberry as confetti rains down. “Coming back after two years, after Covid, it was incredible,” adds La Rocca, reigning pro-champion, having triumphed in 2020 with Lottie Ryan.

They open with a flawless Judges’ Choice Viennese waltz to At Last by Etta James. That is followed by a rambunctious show dance, to the strains of If They Could See Me Now from the musical Sweet Charity.

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Carberry would be very wealthy if she had a euro every time she was labelled the “dark horse” of the series. In end, though, her victory comes as little surprise, with the judges in a swoon throughout her dances.

“It amazes me how you guys perfected the already perfect Viennese waltz,” says Loraine Barry. “Even the best of things can get better with time,” agrees Brian Redmond. “Last time, this was a 10 from me. Tonight, it was even better. Can I get a paddle with 11?” says ebullient newcomer to the panel, Arthur Gourourlian.

But if Carberry wins the trophy, hearts will have been stolen by singer Erica Cody and pro dancer Denys Samson. With his family enduring unthinkable hardship in Ukraine, the final is obviously emotional for Samson.

Cody, for her part, breaks into tears when Redmond proclaims her a role-model for children from a minority background throughout the country. “They’re in awe of you Erica Cody: that was fantastic,” he says after she and Samson perform a show dance to Sigma’s Glitterball.

It’s the second lump-in-throat moment of the night. Redmond earlier congratulates Paralympian Ellen Keane for stepping up as both dancer and as poster-child for anyone who has ever had to overcome challenging odds.

“Embrace what’s make you different,” says Keane, dancing with a weepy Stephen Vincent. “It becomes your super-power when you learn to love yourself and your body.”

On an evening in which everyone is a winner after a fashion, top marks go to rugby sevens star Jordan Conroy and pro partner Salome Chachua. They’re the only finalists to score a perfect streak, receiving a full 10 out of 10 for both their judges’ choice paso doble to Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones and a hip hop-themed show dance soundtracked by Fire It Up by Outaslight.

Conroy is outabreath by the end– as he would be, having tangled with a matador’s cape at the start of the broadcast and then bust all the moves in tracksuit leggings during his final twirl. Overwrought and full of smiles, he glows with enthusiasm.

Viewers who have stayed with this feel-good contest across the past three months will know exactly how he feels.