The momentous reality of competing in Croke Park, a stadium that is "part of our culture" as coach Davy Fitzgerald said, was not lost on the families.
The challenges followed a similar format to ones in previous episodes, as families completed tasks to gain points, with the two families with the highest total of points progressing to the next round while the bottom town faced off in an Eliminator. The winner of that joined the other two in the next round, until just two families remain for the final, crushing event.
The four families taking on Croke Park were the McDonalds from Laois coached by Davy Fitzgerald, the Lawlors from Limerick coached by Donncha O'Callaghan, the Finnegan Hogans from Cork and the Coneys from Tyrone both coached by Anna Geary.
Being the final, the teams were full of reflections on their time in the competition, as were the coaches. Anna was full of pride for the Finnegan Hogans, who had a particularly hard slog to get through to the finals, saying "When their backs were against the wall they showed me they have the grit and determination necessary to succeed". As for the Coneys, she celebrated their "unity", something she said "starts with Colette", the mum and leader of the family.
Incredibly, Colette took on the Croke Park challenges on her 60th birthday!
Speaking about his team, Davy said the McDonalds were "As nice, as gentle as you could meet", but also that once they're in the competition "a switch flips". Donncha praised his team for their ability to work as a unit, adding that "In the big moments they can kind of find something".
The first challenge was Sheer Scale, a hair-raising test that saw each family member climb a ladder, claim one of four flags placed at different heights and tag the next team member in. The challenge got the final off to a tense start, with coaches - particularly Davy - debating over how team members were using the ladders on the way down. In the end, the Lawlors finished first, followed by the Coneys, with the Finnegan Hogans and the McDonalds heading to the first Eliminator.
The Sands of Time challenge was up next, a time trial testing strength and endurance. Teams had to carry 16 sandbags weighing 10kg each, past overs and unders, and up 26 steps to a marked drop off area. The Lawlors finished first, followed by Coneys with the Finnegan Hogans and the McDonalds heading to the Eliminator. Unfortunately, the Finnegan Hogans weren't fast enough, but leave knowing they were an IFF 2018 finalist.
A terrifying new version of Hanging Tough was up next, with families hanging 40 metres above the pitch for as long as they can, with each member's time totaled together. With the Coneys and McDonalds showing the same level of strength they showed before, it was the Lawlors who were eliminated, after a fierce fight.
Finally, the Coneys and McDonalds take on the final course, including a 145 metre run down the length of the pitch, a reverse crawl through ice water, a tunnel crawl and a cargo net pyramid. After a strong start by the McDonalds that saw their running expertise shine, the Coneys steadily ate into their lead, fighting tooth and nail against the McDonalds on the final ramp to win the title of Ireland's Fittest Family.
It was a season that showcased the incredible strength of a range of ages, of men and women and of families who, when pushed to rely on each other and work together, can achieve incredible feats of strength and endurance.
Until next year!
Twitter as an emotional place last night, with messages of support, joy and everything in between poured out to the fierce families that tackled the IFF courses this year...
What you see is what you get
The McDonalds were phenomenal all the way through #IrelandsFittestFamily. All four a credit, but the two girls put an awful lot of fit young fellas in their place over the last few weeks. Not only did my 5 year old daughter notice, so too did my two sons.— Darach Kennedy (@darachk) December 16, 2018
In the words of @DervalORourke check it, CHECK IT!!!!! Nearly loosing the life watching #IrelandsFittestFamily @DavyFitz1 was hilarious!! @RTEOne we NEED a live final!!!! It would be unreal. Come on. #JustSaying— No Limbs No Limits (@NolimbsNolimits) December 16, 2018
Transparency is the fitness trend of 2019
Colette Coney ???? #IrelandsFittestFamily— Croke Park (@CrokePark) December 16, 2018
Fame affects us all
What it's all about