If you were lucky enough to grow up in Ireland between the golden years of 1986 and 2010, you’ll know the pure joy that Dempsey’s Den, The Den, DenTV and Den 2 brought into the world of Irish children, tweens and sleepless parents.
The Den was, without question, the greatest thing to ever happen to Ireland, bar none, and that will, most definitely, be the case forever more.
And what would it have been without the tireless efforts of presenters and puppets alike, steering the ship to children’s television safety and avoiding the ice-bergs of cancellations every single day.
First up are summer stand-ins Aoileann Garvaglia and Aidan Power:
Aoibhinn stuck with the national broadcaster as she now writes for RTÉ food, has a daughter of her own, Míla, lives on a stud farm and enjoys nothing more than tucking into a bowl of home-made porridge with soya milk and a vanilla pod. She’s nailed it, tbh.
Aidan is currently working in a morning slot on iRadio and MCs a plethora of awards shows. In his spare time he likes boxing, fitness and long walks on the beach.
Don’t miss any of Aidan and Oonagh!
— iRadio (@ThisisiRadio) February 7, 2017
The original Dempsey’s Den brought us the low-quality sock puppet monster duo that we never knew we needed – Zig & Zag. Their co-star, Ian Dempsey, became famous for sporting brightly coloured jumpers, a chilled-back approach to media and being an all-round gas man.
Dempsey presented the show until the summer of 1990, when he jumped ship to present pop music quiz show Number 1 and three seasons of The Beatbox. He was also the first host of the Irish version of Talkabout.
On June 9 2010, Dempsey co-hosted the opening ceremony of the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games Irish heats at Thomond Park with noted-friend and esteemed colleague, Des Cahill.
Ian’s still very active on Twitter, which he uses to promote his own show on Today FM, as well as trolling McDonalds.
— Ian Dempsey (@IanDempsey) March 9, 2017
Replacing founding father Ian Dempsey at the helm of The Den, was Kildare Town man Ray D’Arcy who presented the show from 1990 to 1998.
D’Arcy, at the time, also presented the quiz show Blackboard Jungle before presenting terribly-named youth music quiz show 2Phat. D’Arcy also presented the Rose Of Tralee from 2005 – 2010, which has been widely recognised as a low point in his career.
In 2006, D’Arcy won an impressive amount of awards with thanks to his self-titled radio show. He and his team even went on to win a Community/Social Action award for their tireless work around road safety in Ireland. Their radio adverts entitled “Don’t be a Fucking Eejit” contained real-life stories.
D’Arcy went on to eventually host his a self-titled show, confirming that he has an absolute obsession with seeing his own name in lights. The show first aired on September 26, 2015, to mixed reviews. But we think he’s lovely.
Oh, and most importantly, he has a dog called Teddy.
Following D’Arcy’s departure from the show in 1998, The Den received a facelift to become the new-and-improved Den 2. The people were not amused.
Alongside this overhaul came hunky DIT graduate Damien McCall bringing with him his trusty steeds, Socky and soon-to-be Eurovision-contestant, Dustin the Turkey.
‘Damo’ presented The Den from 1998 – 2003, where he said he ”thoroughly enjoyed it”. McCail now works with Q102fm on their weekend show All Request Weekend and annoyingly bought a house before the boom kicked in.
So, yeah, we hate him too.
Arguably the best thing to ever come out of Leitrim, ‘Francie’ Boylan is responsible for the best moment of TV history there ever was.
He and his two furry friends Dustin & Snotzer presented the critically acclaimed What’s Snots? for two years, until his departure in 2005, when he left the capital to join Ocean FM in Ireland’s northwest. He’s still there to this day where he recently found the best supporting actor to his proudest moment, Kevin from Galway.
The two went out on the pints, shots and everything in between – and even kitted Kevin out with a personal t-shirt. Rumour has it he travelled from Galway on the two-wheeler he won way back when.
— Francie Boylan (@FrancisBoylan) March 11, 2017
And while he wasn’t a presenter, no Den 2 list would be complete without a shoutout to the one and only…
Irish artist, environmentalist, television personality and writer of children’s literature Don Conroy was a national treasure, a natural on camera and taught us the important life skill: how to draw owls.
These days, he works for wildlife conservation in Ireland and makes regular appearances at libraries, schools and, to be honest, wherever’ll have him, where he entertains children with stories and teaches little’uns drawings of various animals.
He also does free drawing sessions at universities around the country, for those who both feel like dossing, and would also like to feel young again
Oh, and one last thing. His favourite animal is, unsurprisingly, the barn owl.
Better times, guys. Better times.