PATRICK Kielty battled his nerves and emotions to win wide acclaim for his Late Late Show debut on Friday night.
The Co Down man, who described the role as “the honour of a lifetime”, held back the tears during an at times emotional opening segment that recalled both his own family’s journey and poked fun at the recent controversies around RTÉ and his predecessor.
"What a treat it is to have The Late Late Show on again after the news,” he quipped.
True to his promise that the show would have an “all Ireland flavour”, Kielty’s debut featured interviews with Derry’s Republic of Ireland soccer international James McClean and former Irish President Mary McAleese.
In a poignant moment discussing the Good Friday Agreement, the Belfast-born former premier made reference to the 1988 murder of the presenter’s father Jack.
"So many people including your daddy died for it", she said.
Despite the high profile nature of his career on and off the pitch over the past decade, it was the first time McClean had appeared on the Late Late Show.
But the failure to address the continued ban on northern residents entering RTÉ competitions didn’t go unnoticed by some viewers.
RTÉ last week said it is reviewing the ban it introduced in 2019.
But the new Late Late Show presenter ensured his home village of Dundrum played a big part in the opener, featuring a live video feed from The Dundrum Inn, where punters were treated to free drinks every time the village was mentioned.
The pub, owned by the Patterson family, said it ended up handing out £589 of free drinks on the night after Dundrum was mentioned at least a dozen times.
The show also featured interviews with the hosts of two of Ireland’s most popular comedy podcasts.
Tommy Tiernan, Hector Ó hEochagáin and Laurita Blewitt were followed by Tipperary comedy duo ‘The 2 Johnnies’ who followed.
Although the fact four of the five either work for RTÉ, or have previously worked for the state broadcaster, was not perhaps entirely reflective of a new and refreshed approach to the Late Late Show.
Nevertheless, Kielty’s heartfelt approach and comedy edge appeared to win over most viewers.
Just over 63 per cent of the 1,523 who took part in a snapshot Irish Times poll on Twitter on Friday night described the debut as “very good”.
Irish comedian Jarlath Regan labelled Kielty’s opening monologue “an absolute masterclass in calling the moment…Funny and from the heart - the hardest things to get just right.”
He added: “This man is going to elevate the Late Late to a whole other level”.
Kerry GAA legend Paul Galvin called it “a breath of fresh air".
But fellow GAA star Kevin Cassidy wasn't as enthused from the start. He originally tweeted: “So the late late show is now basically Johnathan Ross but with a different presenter?”
But the Gaoth Dobhair man later said: “In fairness to Kielty a tough job to take on, but he has totally changed things up and made it his own.
“More comfortable, more relaxed and more open. McClean Brilliant.”
Even the barrage of jokes aimed at the recent scandal surrounding RTÉ seemed to please some of the senior figures at the butt of the gags.
Replying to a social media post speculating disquiet among the RTÉ leadership over the jokes, the recently appointed RTÉ Director General Kevin Bakhurst said “actually thought they were great”.