Challenging Times

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Challenging Times
Challenging Times title card.png
GenreQuiz show
Created bySeán Hogan
Presented byKevin Myers
Country of originIreland
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons11
No. of episodes165
ProducerMick McCarthy
Running time25 minutes per episode
Original networkNetwork 2
Picture formatPAL
Audio formatStereophonic
Original release1991 (1991) –
2001 (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 31 May 2007.
  2. ^ Archives, RTÉ (5 July 2012). "RTÉ Archives".
  3. ^ Archives, RTÉ (5 July 2012). "RTÉ Archives".
  4. ^ O'Mahony, Catherine (24 March 2002). "Independent producers bemoan cutbacks". Sunday Business Post. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
  5. ^ McGarry, Patsy (31 May 2001). "Final of quiz series replaced by 'Simpsons'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 31 May 2007.[dead link]
  6. ^ Myers, Kevin (12 July 2001). "An Irishman's Diary". The Irish Times. Retrieved 30 May 2007.[dead link]
  7. ^ "Challenging Times". The Irish Times. 28 November 2001. Retrieved 30 May 2007.[dead link]
  8. ^ "Challenging Times rematch planned – and this time it's personal".
  9. ^ Ferrie, Liam (22 April 1991). "Education". The Irish Emigrant. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
  10. ^ Ferrie, Liam (25 May 1992). "Education". The Irish Emigrant. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
  11. ^ Murphy, Christina (20 April 1993). "Great victory for UCC". The Irish Times. p. 1 (Education & Living).
  12. ^ "UCC on top in Cork challenge". The Irish Times. 26 April 1994. p. 7 (Education & Living).
  13. ^ a b "Top prize goes west, again". The Irish Times. 23 April 1996. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
  14. ^ "How the West was Won". The Irish Times. 4 April 1995.
  15. ^ Connolly, John (22 April 1997). "UL fall down under the gong". The Irish Times. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
  16. ^ O'Sullivan, Roddy (21 April 1998). "Champion stuff, boys". The Irish Times. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
  17. ^ O'Sullivan, Roddy (27 April 1999). "Maynooth, DIT revisit triumph, heartbreak". The Irish Times. Retrieved 30 May 2007.
  18. ^ Tanney, Paul (9 May 2000). "Titan clash in quiz final". The Irish Times. Retrieved 30 May 2007.
  19. ^ "Foundation / Access Course Graduate Reunion". National College of Ireland. 2004. Retrieved 31 May 2007. 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 1 June 2007.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ O'Sullivan, Roddy (9 March 1999). "Munster clash kicks off quarter-finals of TV quiz". The Irish Times.
  22. ^ "Competitions to get the blood flowing". The Irish Times. 19 January 1999.

External links[edit]