A new year means new possibilities, especially when it comes to romance. Whether you texted your ex over Christmas, or were visited by the ghosts of ghosters past, you can always consider your slate clean for the new year and get to swiping.

Doing just that is our latest crop of romantic hopefuls, as the First Dates Ireland restaurant reopens for a new season.

Due to Covid restrictions, the tables might be spaced a little more apart than usual, but that won't stop the sparks flying – or fizzling out entirely.

And overseeing these sizzling dates will be our usual cupids, Maitre'D Mateo and table angels Alice and Pete, always on hand to offer warm welcomes, encouraging pep talks and matchmaking know-how.

This year, however, the team has a new face – chirpy cheerleader and barman Neil, who came for a date but ended up taking over as our resident mover, shaker and cocktail maker.

This year we'll welcome our 600th dater, Óran, who is hoping for a plus one with Luke from Mayo. Also stopping by the restaurant this season are Ashling and Mervyn from Kilkenny who once sat beside each other in school and now find themselves face to face in the restaurant of romance.

Geniele from Dublin

Geniele from Dublin and Shane from Kildare both turn up nursing broken fingers but manage to get to the point, Margaret from Dublin on her first proper date with a man after years of being a one-woman woman.

Because not all dates end with a peck on the lips and a promise of a second date, there will be some familiar faces back again for another chance at love. The irrepressible Hughie Maughan is back, ready to charm Jason from Cork.

Slovakian bombshell Katarina – hoping to blow the mind of Shane from Meath and hairdresser Lain from Leeds who arrives at the restaurant for a third time with a very special announcement.

But before that, our first episode kicks off the season with a slew of charming hopefuls.

Luke (20) from Mayo

Sassy Órán (19) from Dublin marks the occasion with student Luke (20) from Mayo and there's plenty to celebrate as they’re both on their first ever blind date.

Meanwhile, 57 year old Jenny from Tipperary is just a girl standing in front of 59 year old mature student Seamus from Meath who knows all the best lines from Notting Hill.

Free-spirited Geniele (30) from Rush embarks on a flight of fancy with airline pilot Shane (28) from Kildare, who arrives with a glowing letter of recommendation.

Finally, when factory worker and one-woman charm offensive Emma (26) from Cork meets devil-may-care Scott (26), also from Cork, they quickly discover they speak each other’s language.

So whip out the snacks, grab a blanket and curl up for a night of romance as First Dates Ireland comes back to our screens!

Watch First Dates Ireland on Thursdays at 9:30pm on RTÉ 2.