The death of a friend prompted an unemployed, chain-smoking, father of five with a fear of heights to join a new Irish TV show that saw him climb mountains and go abseiling in Dalkey Quarry.
Get Off the Couch - which kicks off on Setanta tonight - follows a group of six ordinary people as they seek to change their lives and take on challenges they never thought possible.
Damien McElligot says it's left him fitter, thinner and happier - and he's given up the fags.
Dubliner Joe Grey has kicked a junk-food addiction and gone on to play American Football for Ireland - since signing up for the show, which encourages people to go after their dreams.
Swords beautician Karen Bowers wouldn't run to catch a bus last year, but now she's climbing mountains and running triathlons and is happy to say she can now do anything she sets her mind to.
In all, there are six participants in the show, which is presented by 98FM's Teena Gates, who guides them through various challenges, ranging from a 4-mile run in Cork, to a triathlon in Athy, and climbing Ireland's highest mountain, Carrauntoohil in County Kerry.
Along the way they meet some of Ireland's greatest sports stars, including Sonia O'Sullivan, Catherina McKeirnan and Katie Taylor - from sea swimming with long distance swimmer Fergal Somerville, to rafting down the Liffey with Ciaran "Kipper" Maguire, climbing Ireland's highest mountain Carrantuohill with Pat Falvey, and competing in a triathlon under the tutelage of coach Eamonn Tilley. You can find out more about the team and the challenges they faced at www.getoffthecouch.ie and tune into the show tonight (Thurs) on Setanta Ireland at 10.05pm.
The presenter is Teena Gates, who knows a lot about overcoming challenges. Teena went from 23 stone, where she found everyday simple activities like walking to be painful, to climbing to Everest base camp. Today Teena enjoys a range of activities from kayaking and hiking to abseiling and brings that enthusiasm forward to motivate our participants who have by their own admission let themselves go and need to change.
This six part series charts the progression of these characters as they take on some of the biggest challenges of their lives, sporting and personal, and along the way gain invaluable advice and training from some of Ireland's greatest sports people, such as Katie Taylor, Sonia O'Sullivan, Sean Kelly and Catherina McKiernan. From sea swimming with long distance swimmer Fergal Somerville, to rafting down the Liffey with Ciaran "Kipper" Maguire, climbing Ireland's highest mountain Carrantuohill with Pat Falvey, and competing in a triathlon under the tutelage of coach Eamonn Tilley.
Teena serves as team leader for the six participants guiding and motivating them as they undertake activities and strive to achieve things they never thought possible, whether it be Karen Bowers (33), a mother of three from Swords attempting to juggle her own business with three children while striving to complete an outdoor swim event at Lough Sheelin, and take up activities that she can do with her family, stating that "at the end of the day work isn't everything, your family is what's important", or Damien Mc Elligott (37), an unemployed chain smoking father of five with a debilitating fear of heights, who aims to overcome that fear and abseil in Dalkey quarry, or climb mountains, using the motivation of his children and not wanting to end up like his friend who passed away at Christmas, "I'm hoping to see a fitter, thinner, happier, non-smoking Damien".
In each case our participants have mental challenges to overcome as well as the purely physical, and overcoming these issues forms the basis for their determination to succeed in getting out of their living rooms and into the great outdoors. Eamonn Waldron, a 46 year old father of four from Bray and former firefighter, struggled to find the motivation to turn his life around having losing his job and separating from his wife within the space of two weeks. But he is determined to regain his confidence and leadership qualities as he seeks to help the others cross the finish line.
Joe Grey (23), from Dublin, is a natural born athlete who has struggled to fulfill his potential of becoming a top sportsperson through having an appalling addiction to junk food and cigarettes. These combined with the aimlessness that he describes as having been the reason for dropping out of four different college courses made him want to change and be able to provide for his girlfriend. "I want to do something, change completely change from what I'm doing now, because what I'm doing now I really don't like it"
Maryanne Treacy, a 50 year old businesswoman from Midleton in Co. Cork never believed she could get active having tried and failed many times in the past. Maryanne knows she has to dig deep for her family, "I want to be around for my granddaughter, to be there. I'm just fed up of just sitting on the couch. I want to be out there". Like Maryanne, Cathy Whyte (27), from Armagh, has always struggled to get fit admitting she has been having "too good of a time". But she is determined to change, setting herself the goal of eventually climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, "I'd rather regret what I've done than regret not doing it".
Athena Media is an award-winning production company led by Helen Shaw. The company makes broadcast and online content. Its TV credits Winning Women (Setanta Sports 2008), Is It Just Me? (RTE Two 2009) Pat Falvey: My Private Everest (Setanta Sports 2011), Beyond Limits (Setants Sports 2012) and it's film production Belmayne: Gorgeous Living (2013). It's currently in production on Beyond Limits: Next Generation (Setanta sports 2014). Its Radio production includes the acclaimed history series for RTE Radio 1 Citizens: Lockout 1913-2013. Athena Media won The New York Gold Award (2012) for the history and current affairs series Death of an Empire for RTÉ radio 1 and the Celtic Media Torc Award for its sports series Winning Women for Newstalk. For more information on Athena Media go to www.athenamedia.ie
Get Off The Couch Presented by Teena Gates. Produced and Directed by Helen Shaw. Principal Camera by Barry MacNeill. Assistant Producer Robert Hope. Production Coordinator Leon O'Neill. Production Administrator Lisa Essuman. Music by Michael Gallen, Robert Hope and Mark Gavin. Edited by Barry MacNeill.