Belfast Telegraph

Heroic end to Eoin Monaghan’s spell on Countdown

By Anne Madden

Teenage whizz Eoin Monaghan fell at the final hurdle in his bid to be crowned Countdown champion.

Eoin (14) from Banbridge, Co Down, has been wowing TV audiences and stumping contestants years older than him as he marched his way to the final of the cult quiz show.

However, the freckle-faced teenager was magnanimous yesterday, saying he “wasn’t too disappointed” after he lost to 18-year-old Jack Hurst, a mathematics student at Pembroke College, Cambridge.

“I was up against probably the best player there has ever been on the show,” he said yesterday. “But if someone had told me at the start, in July, that I would make it to the final I would have laughed. I was happy enough just to win one game.”

Eoin was able to watch his final Countdown battle as it aired yesterday afternoon, as his school, Abbey Christian Brothers’ Grammar in Newry, was closed due to the snow.

The popular quiz show tests literacy and numeracy skills, pitting two contestants against each other and the famous Countdown clock.

The modest schoolboy was on a winning streak, winning eight successive shows that took him into the knockout finals, which were recorded in November.

Jack had been top seed to win, with a 116-point average to Eoin’s 113. In the final the maths student whizzed ahead, winning with 113 points to Eoin’s very respectable score of 85.

Eoin lost out on the winner’s prize, which included a 20-volume set of Oxford English Dictionaries, but he wasn’t too disappointed as he took home a £1,000 cheque.

“I’m not sure how I’ll spend it yet,” he said.

There have been a number of child contestants on Countdown, but few have been as successful.

Eoin’s father Peter travelled with him for the filming at ITV Studios in Manchester for the Channel 4 show.

He said: “We are all very proud. As presenter Jeff Stelling said, it felt like two winners on the show.”

His mother Edel, a district nurse, and his two sisters, 16-year-old Claire and 12-year-old Helen, were also said to be delighted with his success.

“Everyone has been very supportive,” Eoin said. “They had all been asking if I had won but I didn’t want to spoil it, so I stayed tight-lipped.”

While most of his school friends were rooting for Eoin to win, the teenager revealed that some of them were tuning in to watch the striking game show assistant Rachel Reilly in her short dresses.

“I think Rachel attracted a lot of their attention as much as me being on the show,” he laughed.

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