How Darragh’s smart moves took him from Contestant to Chaser

He was so clued-up, TV bosses had only one question to ask: when can you start?

By Judy Kean
He's got two left feet, can't hold a tune and is hopeless at sport. But the one skill Darragh Ennis does have is the ability to remember random facts – and he's got that to thank for a secondary job that has made him famous.
The Irish scientist is celebrating three years since he joined hit TV quiz show The Chase as a Chaser and says he feels fortunate that he's blessed with a good memory.
"My mother's always called me a 'mine of useless information'," says Darragh, 43. "I always had a good memory for random facts and weird things. I'm rubbish at all sports, I can't dance, can't sing. I don't have talents in a lot of fields, but I can remember things. I don't have to work at it. I breezed through school without studying. The only time I really started studying was when it got hard at university."
Darragh, from Dublin, did a Bachelor of Science in biology, then a PhD in ecology. After working as a biomedical scientist, he did postdoctoral research in Montreal, Canada, before landing a job as a lab manager and research technician at the University of Oxford. He specialises in researching the brains of insects.
A keen quizzer, in 2017 he appeared as a contestant on The Chase, scoring a very respectable £9000 (around $18,000) in the cash builder round and making it into the final. Unfortunately, his team members accepted lower offers, so when the four of them got to the final, there was just £6300 ($12,500) in the pot. The team won, thanks to Darragh answering 14 of the 19 questions they got right – Chaser Paul Sinha said he was the best contestant he'd ever played against – but they each only received just over $3000.
Many viewers were annoyed that Darragh missed out on a greater jackpot thanks to his teammates and started a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #justiceforDarragh. A GoFundMe page was even set up for him.
Darragh's TV debut was a hit with viewers.
Darragh asked for any money raised to be donated to charity and defended his team. "Thanks for the support, but I would appreciate it if people eased off my teammates. It's hard in front of the cameras."
Darragh's ability to remember information – like the fact Jesus Christ's disciple Didymus was also known as Thomas – impressed The Chase's bosses. He was immediately asked if he wanted to become the sixth Chaser on the show.
Host Bradley Walsh explains, "Straight away, after we came off air on the recording that day, the bosses said to him, 'Listen, do you fancy training as a Chaser?'"
It was too good an offer to turn down and Darragh underwent extensive training.
"You've got to know not just general knowledge – you've got to know stuff about modern culture," says Brad. "It's very tricky."
Darragh, who is married to his "university sweetheart" Joan Gannon and has two children, points out that he's at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to some questions because he grew up in Ireland, not the UK. "Things that British people just know, I didn't know. Stupid things like, 'Where do the motorways go?' or 'What county is something in?' I had to do a lot of work on that.
"I'm also terrible at pop culture. I'm really bad at soaps and modern music, so I had to get a lot of help with that."
Celebrating a win with Bradley (centre), Shaun Wallace (right) and others on an awards night in London.
He admits he's given some "very stupid" answers at times, but at least he has managed to make Bradley laugh. He says working with the actor-turned-game show host is one of the highlights of being on The Chase.
"Bradley Walsh is absolutely one of the funniest people I have ever met. You know when you were in school and there was the kid that your mother told you not to sit beside? That's Brad. He's like a giant child. He's just so much fun. I know there are some people in TV who adopt a character, but that is not him at all. He is that person you see. He has a laugh and it's so much easier to work with someone like that. I love it when we make fun of each other."
While Darragh is thrilled to be part of the programme, he's adamant it will always come second to his main job. When he's not answering quiz questions on TV, he can be found in a lab at the University of Oxford, studying insects. "My day-to-day life hasn't changed. The Chase is my side gig – my main job is being a scientist."
He says his colleagues aren't impressed by his celebrity status. "Most of them don't watch The Chase. Half of them don't even watch TV. They're nerds."
While Darragh didn't hesitate to sign up for The Chase, the one thing he will never do is agree to be a celebrity contestant on Strictly Come Dancing.
"I literally cannot dance. I had to get lessons so I could dance at my wedding and after my first dance, my mother-in-law said to me, 'I thought you got lessons?' That was how much of an improvement I made!"

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