Challenging Times

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Challenging Times
Challenging Times title card.png
Genre Quiz show
Created by Seán Hogan
Presented by Kevin Myers
Country of origin Ireland
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 11
No. of episodes 165
Producer(s) Mick McCarthy
Running time 25 minutes per episode
Original network Network 2
Picture format 576i
Audio format Stereophonic
Original release 1991 – 2001

Challenging Times was a television quiz show for teams representing higher education institutes in Ireland, both those in the Republic of Ireland and those in Northern Ireland. It was televised by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) from 1991 to 2001, sponsored by The Irish Times, and presented by Kevin Myers, then a columnist with that newspaper.[1] The programme used a quizbowl format similar to that of University Challenge in the United Kingdom (the only difference is that the starter questions are worth five points, as opposed to ten on University Challenge), which is itself a licensed version of the College Bowl format popular in the United States. Each year, 16 teams qualified for the televised knockout stages, with two teams of three competing in each programme up to the final.


Filming locations included RTÉ's Studio 1, the lecture theatre of St. Vincent's University Hospital and University College Dublin's O'Reilly Hall.[2][3]

The programme was cancelled after the 2001 series, at a time when RTÉ was in financial difficulties.[4] The final of that series was postponed at short notice and an episode of The Simpsons was broadcast instead.[5] Kevin Myers later complained that RTÉ had given The Irish Times no notice that the series was being discontinued,[6] though RTÉ disputed this contention.[7]

Notable events[edit]

The 1997 final was notable for its controversial ending. DCU led 175 to UL's 170. Myers began to ask the final question: "He was born in Australia in 1902, of Irish parents..." The DCU captain buzzed in and answered "Ned Kelly" as the buzzer sounded to mark the end. An incorrect answer would mean a five-point penalty and a tie-break, but Myers ruled that the quiz had ended before the incorrect answer was given, and thus DCU won 175–170. (The controversial question actually referred to the writer Francis Stuart.)[8]


year winner runner-up
1991[9] St Patrick's College, Maynooth University of Limerick
1992 [10] St Patrick's College, Maynooth Trinity College, Dublin
1993[11] University College, Cork Bolton Street College of Technology
1994[12] University College, Cork Cork Regional Technical College
1995 University College, Galway [13] University of Limerick[14]
1996 [13] University College, Galway Cork Regional Technical College
1997[15] Dublin City University University of Limerick
1998 [16] University College Dublin Dublin Institute of Technology
1999[17] National University of Ireland, Maynooth Dublin Institute of Technology
2000 [18] National College of Ireland[19] National University of Ireland, Galway
2001[20] University College, Cork National University of Ireland, Galway

Roll of honour[edit]

The Universities Act, 1997 substantially altered a number of third-level institutions, so this list unites the results of several colleges with their predecessors.

Institution Wins Runners-up Winning seasons
NUI Maynooth and St Patrick's College 3 0 1991, 1992, 1999
University College Cork 3 0 1993, 1994, 2001
NUI Galway and University College, Galway 2 2 1995, 1996
Dublin City University 1 0 1997
National College of Ireland 1 0 2000
University College Dublin 1 0 1998
University of Limerick 0 3
Dublin Institute of Technology and Bolton Street 0 3
Cork RTC 0 2
Trinity College, Dublin 0 1

Other institutions that appeared on Challenging Times but did not reach a final:


  1. ^ Ferrie, Liam (14 January 1991). "Education". The Irish Emigrant. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ O'Mahony, Catherine (24 March 2002). "Independent producers bemoan cutbacks". Sunday Business Post. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  5. ^ McGarry, Patsy (2001-05-31). "Final of quiz series replaced by `Simpsons'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2007-05-31. [dead link]
  6. ^ Myers, Kevin (2001-07-12). "An Irishman's Diary". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2007-05-30. [dead link]
  7. ^ "'Challenging Times'". The Irish Times. 2001-11-28. Retrieved 2007-05-30. [dead link]
  8. ^ [3]
  9. ^ Ferrie, Liam (22 April 1991). "Education". The Irish Emigrant. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  10. ^ Ferrie, Liam (25 May 1992). "Education". The Irish Emigrant. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  11. ^ Murphy, Christina (1993-04-20). "Great victory for UCC". The Irish Times. p. 1 (Education & Living). 
  12. ^ "UCC on top in Cork challenge". The Irish Times. 1994-04-26. p. 7 (Education & Living). 
  13. ^ a b "Top prize goes west, again". The Irish Times. 1996-04-23. Retrieved 2007-05-31. [dead link]
  14. ^ "How the West was Won". The Irish Times. 1995-04-04. 
  15. ^ Connolly, John (1997-04-22). "UL fall down under the gong". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2007-05-31. [dead link]
  16. ^ O'Sullivan, Roddy (1998-04-21). "Champion stuff, boys". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2007-05-31. [dead link]
  17. ^ O'Sullivan, Roddy (1999-04-27). "Maynooth, DIT revisit triumph, heartbreak". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2007-05-30. [dead link]
  18. ^ Tanney, Paul (2000-05-09). "Titan clash in quiz final". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2007-05-30. [dead link]
  19. ^ "Foundation / Access Course Graduate Reunion". National College of Ireland. 2004. Retrieved 2007-05-31. John was a member of the NCI team who became overall winners of RTÉ's university quiz show, Challenging Times. 
  20. ^ "Gallery: Challenging Times Final". NUIG Student Information Network. March 2001. Retrieved 2007-06-01. 
  21. ^ [4]
  22. ^ [5]

External links[edit]