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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Sandra Mallon

Matthew MacNaab opens up on pain over loss of close pal days before entering Love Island villa

Former Love Island star Matthew MacNaab has revealed the death of his close pal “impacted” him badly going into the villa.

The Northern Irishman’s close friend Ryan Freeman died just days before his appearance on Love Island in 2021. Ryan passed away on July 11 2021 while Matthew was in quarantine ahead of going into the famous villa in Mallorca.

Opening up about how tough it was, Matthew said: “Love Island was tough for me because I lost one of my close friends, who died a week before going into the villa.

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"That was really tough and it impacted the entire experience for me. It was in the back of my mind. I probably would have been more loud and enthusiastic if that wasn’t the case.”

Matthew went on to take part in RTE’s Dancing With The Stars, where he met girlfriend and pro dance partner Laura Nolan.

He said: “The most enjoyable for me was definitely Dancing With The Stars. It was really unique for me to learn such a cool skill and doing it with a person that I love.

"It was the most rewarding. We did really well, we got to the semi-finals and had one of the best dances on the show ever - I’m going to say that! It was a really special experience.”

But he admitted it was the most stressful ordeal of his life.,

“Absolutely! It’s so difficult. It’s seven days a week - all day for fifteen or sixteen weeks. Then you have the pressures and opinions, everything. It is really tough, physically and mentally.

“I’ve come from an athletic background since I was six, like doing really tough sports from Gaelic and hurling. I had been doing that every single day of my life, but dancing was the toughest of them all.

"You literally have no rest. During the American Smooth, I was lifting Laura and chucking her in different directions but by the end of it, I was on the floor.

"We had tango the week after and you have to bend your knees the entire time. I’ve never had problems with my knees and by the end of it, there were problems with my lower back, knees and neck.”

But he said he never expected to fall in love on the show.

“No, definitely not! I gave up on that, but I suppose when you’re not looking for it, that’s when you find it. For me, Dancing With The Stars was a more natural way to meet somebody.

"Love Island is great because it’s an amazing show and fun, but I don’t think it’s as natural. "Me and Laura are both very similar, relaxed people, which is quite funny. I always say she’s like my bro, but she’s my girlfriend at the same time.”

But the 26-year-old said the show made the couple stronger together.

“100% as we went through one of the most stressful ordeals. I think it’s a good thing to point out that I was on the lower side of the leaderboard every week, until week six. I think I recorded the lowest ever jive score in Dancing With The Stars history, so that’s something.

“To go through that, which is so stressful, you're working so hard and the pressures of live TV, but we didn’t argue once. It was just craic the entire way.

"We said at the time, if we haven’t fallen out and hated each other by the end of this, we’re definitely meant to be. I can safely say that after a year on from that, we’ve had one argument for an entire year. That’s unprecedented for me and my ex-girlfriends.”

Speaking with Spin Genie, he gave his opinion on this year’s contestants.

“Panti Bliss is amazing! Obviously I put Kevin and Laura up there, but Panti is another I would put up there. Shayne [Bryne] has been doing such a good job, he’s definitely underrated.

"I had no dance experience whatsoever before doing the show, but Laura is a world champion and she’s been dancing since she was three years old.

"Just by being with her for a year and going through the whole experience last year, I can see bits of technique or really bad technique. "With Shayne, I know he makes fun with his dances, but sometimes his technique is really good.

“I do find myself picking up on things. I am a little bit more technical, well a lot more technical, compared to what I used to be.

“I think it’s a really great series with lots of different dynamics. Obviously I’m a little bit biased because Laura, my girlfriend, is with Kevin (MaGahern), so I think they’re the best by far. It’s been a really good series, I’ve enjoyed it so far.

“It’s very different for me compared to the normal audience watching, because I understand the dynamics of the show and what the competitors are going through.

"I know how they’re feeling and the pressure they’re under. It’s so difficult because some people are doing well, but others aren’t getting the scores they want.

"Then they have to get up on Monday, redo everything and start a whole new dance, even if they got bad marks.

“The motivation to push on is something I can completely understand. At week six, people start to get really tired because you’re going every single day and it just gets a little bit more tough mentally for people.”


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