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Beaten by a whisker: The Northern Ireland personalities who just lost out in beard battle

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William Crawley

William Crawley

BBC Northern Ireland

Colum Eastwood

Colum Eastwood

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Rob Herring

Rob Herring

William Crawley

Some of Northern Ireland's bearded personalities have just missed out on winning Beard of Ireland 2020 by a hair's breadth.

The Beard Liberation Front (BLF), the informal network of beard wearers who organised the award, said there was a record turnout after 12,086 votes were cast.

It was a close shave but Professor Peter Coles, a theoretical astrophysicist at Maynooth University, beat director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium Aodhan Connolly, while BBC Radio Ulster broadcaster William Crawley came third.

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Aodhan Connolly

Aodhan Connolly

Aodhan Connolly

Despite the coronavirus crisis across Ireland and the rest of the world, Mr Connolly was glad some light-hearted fun could be had amid the uncertain circumstances.

"Of course I would have loved to have won but I think with everything else going on I'm quite happy to have actually managed to get second place," he said.

"I want to thank everybody who went out of their way to vote for me."

Admitting that the "best beard did not win", Mr Connolly jokingly praised Professor Coles for mobilising his students to vote for him.

Other finalists in this year's Beard of Ireland included People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll, Northern Ireland and Leeds footballer Stuart Dallas, SDLP leader and former winner Colum Eastwood, and Ulster and Ireland hooker Rob Herring. Mr Connolly felt the award has shown just how popular beards remain among many men across the country.

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Colum Eastwood

Colum Eastwood

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Colum Eastwood

"A few people seem to be shaving them off but I think mine is here to stay," he commented.

"It doesn't help that when you shave mine off I have a head like a bowling ball!

"It's just one of these things for fashion.

"It comes into fashion and it goes out of fashion.

"It's like boot-cut jeans.

"Some people in the country will continue to do it for another 20 years."

For any aspiring beard aficionados, the businessman had one simple tip - treat your facial hair like the hair on your head and you can't go wrong.

Rob Herring

"Wash it, condition it and give it a brush once or twice a day and it looks after itself, but you do have to look after it a bit," he said.

Looking ahead to next year's Beard of Ireland, Mr Connolly stated he will start growing his facial hair out now to stand a chance of lifting first prize.

"It's not the biggest thing on my mind at the moment but you know what, at a time like this it's good to have a bit of a laugh," he added. BLF organiser Keith Flett passed on his congratulations to Professor Coles and commiserations to Mr Connolly - hairs were being split right up to the close of the poll.

Belfast Telegraph