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NI comic Ryan handed big break as presenter on new ITV game show

By Cate McCurry

Ryan Hand has got the world at his feet.

Having bagged a top co-presenting job on a new ITV game show, the Co Down man has come a long way from the days when he was performing comedy gigs in Belfast.

The London-based, straight-talking, ambitious comic is to rub shoulders with celebrities including ex-England cricketer Freddie Flintoff and The Saturdays singer Frankie Bridge.

Viewers will see the Newcastle man making a splash as the pool-side reporter in the water-based obstacle course game show Cannonball, which will air in a prime time slot.

"I was delighted, over the Moon, when I heard I got the job," he said. "It's still hard to think that it's real."

The 29-year-old travels to Malta later this month to start filming for the series.

Each week the show will see 24 contestants face water-based challenges focused on speed, accuracy, height and distance.

Finalists will attempt to launch themselves cannonball-style at a huge moving target covering the surface of a deep-water tank in a bid to claim the Cannonball Cup.

Produced by Potato - a company owned by Londonderry man Michael Kelpie - the show is expected to air in September.

"My friend's uncle works for Potato and I had a chat with him about presenting opportunities and he told me they were making this show and he put me in touch with the producer," he added.

"I didn't think much of it but then it snowballed very quickly and the next thing I had a screen test. Then they said they wanted to take me on board for a presenter's role.

"It was perfect timing. It all happened so quickly and unexpectedly."

After moving to London a year ago Ryan has been carving out a career, and is currently the warm-up act on popular daytime television show Loose Women.

Before moving across the water, Ryan spent almost eight years in Belfast honing his stagecraft performing stand-up. After starting off as a runner for BBC Northern Ireland, he graduated to presenting radio shows.

"I know that I am ready for this chance and I have certainly earned it," he said.

"The ITV family are really good with passing you round with other programmes so it's a good springboard, and hopefully this is the big break I have been waiting for.

"I feel very lucky that this is happening."

After losing his mother to cancer when he was 20, Ryan was determined more than ever to make it in show business.

"My mum Pauline always saw something in me. She was confident I could go down this route," he explained.

"I don't think she would be surprised but I would love her to see how far I have come, I think she would be proud.

"I always say a prayer and thank her for getting this far.

"Everyone in my family is delighted for me, especially my three sisters."

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