In an era when even going on a date with someone outside your household bubble is considered a crime — and besides there are few places to go! — is romance dead... for the time being at least?
Not for those taking part in the new series of Irish Dates Ireland when it returns for its sixth run on RTÉ2 on Thursday, February 11, at 9pm.
The producers managed to overcome the hurdles presented by the pandemic to get the show on the road, with Maitre’D Mateo Saina, master-mixologist Ethan Miles, and bar staff Alice Marr and Pete Ungless again at the ready to welcome a group of new hopefuls searching for love.
This year, however the game of love has new regulations.
Daters are suitably distanced, contact is strictly off the cards, and background diners are all family bubbles, among them, friends and family of the daters we meet, which should add a little spice. How would you feel having your date’s mother keeping a beady eye on proceedings?!
Among the daters hoping to unleash their inner Romeo or Juliet in the first episode are 26-year-old Corkman Rob, who gingerly attempts to rock the world of Tracey, also 26. The Dubliner arrives in a red dress in search of a redhead, so will Rob fit the bill?
Meanwhile, the spectacularly mohawked Philip, from Tipperary, makes a memorable entrance on a skateboard, while best friends Aimee and Laura, from Down, go double dating in full view of their mothers.
Shane, 35, of Meath, has made a brave recovery from a serious head injury and is embarking on his first date in 14 years. How will he get on with level-headed single mum Avril, also 35, of Dublin.
Bubbly Amy, 27, who is also from Dublin, is prepared for just about anything, but will she be dazed and confused in the presence of reformed party-boy Sean, 26, from Blanchardstown?
Returning to First Dates Ireland from last season are Martina, from Limerick, who came to the restaurant with her sister last year, but is flying solo this time — still in search of a wingman — and Peter, from Clare, who is hoping that — unlike the irrepressible Lorraine — this year’s date won’t be sneezing wine out of her nose.
Plus, Tralee Game of Thrones actor Tim, 54, auditions for a place in the heart of outgoing decorator Rory, 48, from Sligo
So sit back and savour an intoxicating blend of flirtation, faux-pas, doorway malfunctions, fluttering nerves and the tantalising prospect of second dates as Ireland’s most romantic restaurant reopens.