March 5, 2010 — A debut for the ages, Dublin's lit-lovers came out in full force to witness Literary Death Match Dublin's inaugural event at The Sugar Club, a storied battle that concluded with Nuala Ní Chonchúir narrowly out-potato-hurling Brian O'Connell in a titan-like clash of Throw the Spud Through the Literary Master's Puncture, winning 3-2, and capturing Ireland's first-ever LDM crown.
But well before the finale, the night — co-sponsored by The Stinging Fly, a brilliant Ireland-based literary magazine — began with Horizon Review rep Ni Choncuir leading off against The Stinging Fly's Colm Liddy. Ni Choncuir wowed a packed house with a fantastic set of poems that drew as many laughs as surprised gasps, followed by Liddy who dazzled with a tale about his younger, better-looking brother, that drew many chuckles and chortles.
The microphone was then handed over to the cast of all-star judges: journalist/radio presenter Nadine O'Regan, playwright/producer Philly McMahon, and journalist/TV presenter Una Mullally. McMahon joyfully chided both readers for their rustic roots, and the others cracked smartly wise before they were asked to huddle by host Todd Zuniga and announce the night's first finalist. A difficult decision, the judges selected Ni Choncuir to advance.
After a Guinness-fueled intermission, Zuniga returned to the stage, welcoming Gill & Macmillan's repBrian O'Connell (author of Wasted: A Sober Journey Through Drunken Ireland) and Electric Picnic's Marty Mulligan to take center stage. O'Connell — reading for the first time ever — led off, powering through a heartaching selection from his memoir Wasted, followed by Mulligan, who shocked, awed and otherwise, with a pair of performed poems.
Again the judges were handed the mic, with O'Regan crediting O'Connell for such heartfelt and pointed prose, while Mulligan was praised for his almost evangelical performance. Another tough decision, but after a long huddle, it was O'Connell who was announced as the night's second finalist.
For the finale, the ghosts of some of Ireland's biggest influences on Opium Magazine — Oscar Wilde, Flann O'Brien and Flannery O'Connor (we know, she's Irish-American) — were enlisted, as posters of each, with a hole cut into them, held by three volunteers. Ni Choncuir and O'Connell were then tasked with tossing three different types of potatoes into the famed writer's mouths. It was a shaky beginning as tossed potatoes filled the stage, but Ni Choncuir got on the board, being the first to toss a baby potato through O'Brien's overcoat , closely followed by O'Connell. Then, as the two Ni Choncuir raced to another lead by throwing a red Irish potato through Wilde's maw, with only O'Connor to go. O'Connell struggled with his second target, as the volunteer wily waved Wilde's mouth clear of each toss, until O'Connell was credited a second point. But it was too late for a comeback — Ni Choncuir had found O'Connor's tiny mouth with so few tries that the competition was over, and Ni Choncuir was crowned champion, entering her instantly into Literary Death Match lore.