Hugo Duncan: Easter treat as talented Cliona steps out with her new band
When it comes to challenging herself, Cliona Hagan certainly does not do things by half-measures. As a young girl her ambition was to be a teacher and when in time she duly qualified her personality, commitment and warmth ensured that she enjoyed not just the respect, but the devotion of her pupils.
But even though she was never less than dedicated to her chosen profession, the lure of showbusiness invariably remained a constant factor.
And when she was invited to perform a few solo spots at concerts some years ago, little did she know that this was to prove the launch-pad for an altogether different career.
Such was the impact that this vivacious, bubbly Ballinderry woman created that in no time at all she was approached to form her own band and take to the road as a full-time professional singer on the hugely competitive Irish country dancing circuit.
Not for the first time, though, Cliona was to prove herself more than capable of meeting a challenge and the upshot was that she spent a few exciting, if extremely busy, years touring the length and breadth of Ireland, as well as performing in England and Scotland and on the continent.
Yet ever-conscious that she might just be able to better herself, Cliona called time on her role at the end of September last year and hardly had time in which to catch her breath before she received an invitation to participate in the prestigious RTE series Dancing With The Stars.
In her own words, this represented "the ultimate challenge" for Cliona, but in typical fashion, after countless hours of self-sacrifice and intensive practice, she blazed through to the final along with her dancing partner Robert Rowinski.
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
Today, Cliona can reflect on what she believes was an unbelievable experience, but now yet another peak remains to be climbed - and she can't wait to begin the ascent.
Tomorrow night, Cliona will launch her new band at the Ryandale Hotel, Moy before moving on to the Allingham Arms Hotel, Bundoran on Sunday and completing a hectic Easter itinerary at the Tullyglass House Hotel, Ballymena on Monday night.
"I consider myself extremely fortunate in relation to the quality of musicians I have been able to recruit and I have no doubt that they share my enthusiasm and sense of anticipation in what is a new challenge for us all," explains Cliona.
"I derived enormous satisfaction from my involvement in country music with my first band and I am now particularly keen to take things to the next level."
She adds: "We are starting from scratch, we are guaranteed nothing, but you can take it from me that we are prepared to work as hard as we possibly can in our bid to try and rub shoulders with the more established bands."
As was the case in Dancing With The Stars, Cliona has been the recipient of good wishes from many quarters as she prepares to embark on another phase ofwhat has been an eventful career to date.
Over the course of the remainder of the spring and all through the summer, she will be performing in all the major dancing venues as well as numerous top-line festivals before embarking on her Dance On theatre tour in the autumn.
Under the capable baton of the highly-respected Rising Management stable, Cliona is set once again to bring a breath of fresh air to the entertainment scene and to stamp her own inimitable imprint on the marketplace.
"We know we have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but we are certainly up for the challenge," says Cliona.
"I am very determined that we should hit the ground running and you can be sure that we won't be found wanting in terms of drive or effort.
"It's all systems go as far as we are concerned and I can't wait to get onto the stage at the Ryandale in Moy tomorrow night," she adds.