Daniel O'Donnell facing challenge of his life... and Majella won't be around to cheer him on
Daniel O'Donnell has admitted he faces the biggest challenge of his career as he prepares for tonight's second round of Strictly Come Dancing.
The singer, who has amassed a legion of die-hard fans throughout a career spanning three decades, is performing the energetic Charleston with his dancing partner Kristina Rihanoff.
The Donegal crooner described the dance as "a lot of running about" and admitted to feeling like he was constantly playing catch-up.
However, after overcoming a difficult foot-swivel manoeuvre during practice, the 53-year-old said the hardest part was remembering the steps.
He also told the Belfast Telegraph how his wife Majella would not be watching him perform from the audience any longer because it was too nerve-racking for her. Instead, from now on, she will be cheering him on from the comfort of their home.
Speaking to this paper ahead of his performance tonight, Daniel said: "I'm a bit sore with blisters and a few things, but if I could get rid of the nerves I'd be grand.
"This week hasn't been too bad - the rehearsals are fine, but when you get in to the live studio it's another story.
"The dance is very energetic for me. There's a lot of going about and although it's only a minute-and-a-half, it's hard to keep up. It's more a fun dance, but there's a lot of running about and it feels like I'm catching up all the time. Initially, there was a swivel action that was very difficult for me. In the first day, I just could not move my feet that way, but it must be because Kristina is a great teacher that I was able to get that in some kind of fashion.
"The hardest part for me is remembering the choreography - it's not about the rhythm. If you forget, it's hard to get into again."
Despite being used to performing in front of thousands of fans, Daniel admitted he was struggling with nerves.
"I really have to stay focused as I lost my focus last week," he added. "But when I look back at the dance, it looked fine. It didn't look disastrously wrong. It wasn't shocking-looking, which I was surprised about.
"My fans are great and the support has been great. The reaction and the interest has been incredible. I've had so many wishing me luck. I heard some of them are doing that, and that's amazing. It doesn't surprise me because they have been very loyal to me."
Turning to the judges, Daniel said that they were true professionals who had surprised him with their commentary on his footwork, which he added was all down to Kristina.
"Kristina was very strong in showing me how to use your feet and the action of the foot," he said. "I tried very hard to do well. Craig gave four points, which was not too bad. I'd love to win, but sure I don't know how good I am. Peter [Andre] is the favourite, and some of the young girls are terrific dancers. I have to get into character for this dance, and that's not easy for me to do. But you never know, it will take a few weeks yet.
"I have been in touch with Peter and Jeremy [Vine] and Carol [Kirkwood]. They are really nice. The dancers are too and there's a great support network.
"Majella's brother and wife will be in the audience. I don't think Majella will go anymore - I think she found it too nerve-racking sitting in the studio. I think she will watch it from home now on. She said she would rather get up and walk about.
"It's a great experience, and when you're there and the lights are on, it's nothing you could imagine."
Strictly Come Dancing is on BBC 1 tonight at 6.20pm