Hopeful romantics Ashley and Eric were a big hit when they showed their sweetness and strength to First Dates Ireland fans in the first episode of the new series on RTÉ2 on Thursday night.

Ashley, aged 25, from Donegal, and Eric, aged 24, from Limerick had plenty of chemistry from the moment they were introduced - but the conversation soon turned from pleasantries to something deeper.

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As Eric talked about his speech impediment and experience of anxiety as a child, and Ashley discussed being bullied at school and the effect it had on her, there was the sense of two people who could be great in each other's lives.

"I think we need more people like you around," said Eric when he heard that Ashley wants to be a counsellor.

"We need more people like you too," Ashley replied.  

All this before they discovered a shared love of dogs and animated movies.

When it came to decision time, Eric said: "From the get go, she was just so friendly. I was just completely comfortable with her and [she] put me at ease."

"Do you fancy him?" Ashley was asked.

"Yeah, a little bit," she laughed. 

"You just constantly kept the banter going," she told Eric. "You just put me completely at ease."

"So did you," he replied.

"We should take our dogs for a walk," suggested Ashley. 

"I would actually love that," said Eric.

At the end of the show we were told that Ashley and Eric then "went for a drink and lost track of time" - with Eric missing his bus home.

Ashley's Chihuahua Newton and Eric's Husky Khain have yet to meet.  

First Dates Ireland continues on RTÉ2 on Thursdays at 9:30pm.

Watch the show in full on the RTÉ Player.

Here are just some of fans' reactions to Ashley and Eric: