As Gamilaroi man Gerard 'Doody' Dennis was opening 30 European flat oysters as fast as he possibly could alongside five of the world's best shuckers, it wasn't the bright lights, deafening crowd or frustratingly foreign oysters that caught his attention - it was the sound of someone yelling, "Go Australia!"
"Being on a world-stage event and hearing voices say that, instead of 'Go Doody' - it was surreal," he said.
It was Mr Dennis' triumphant win at the Narooma Oyster Festival in May 2023 that led him to the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival - the world's oldest oyster festival.
Since 1968, the festival has been crowning oyster opening world champions and inviting the world's best shuckers to the historical hamlet.
The 2023 festival saw 16 competitors representing countries like Latvia, Finland, Estonia, France, Canada and of course, Australia.
Following the advice of his mentor and former employer Jim Yiannaros, Mr Dennis flew into Ireland a few days before the competition with his partner Sam and Narooma Rocks chair Cath Peachey to make sure any jet lag would wear off before the big day.
On September 22, one day ahead of the competition, Mr Dennis had his first encounter with a European flat oyster, although he had already received a few tips on how to approach the tough and sometimes brittle mollusc from Mr Yiannaros.
"With our [Australian] oysters, you hit the shell and you can't get through, but with these you have to fillet it," he said.
He became more familiar with the oyster when he was offered the opportunity to judge the Irish National Oyster Championships, which was taken out by Mr Dennis' friend and mentor, Stephen Nolan.
On the afternoon of September 23, Mr Dennis donned his protective gloves and apron and got to work in his nail-biting heat.
Shucking just beside him was a Latvian competitor, who scored the fastest time of the championships. Mr Dennis sped through his oysters in approximately 4 minutes, making him the third-fastest in his heat.
After all heats were completed, United Kingdom shucker Frederico Fiorillo was named the 2023 champion, while Mr Dennis finished in 11th place.
He hopes that, if he is successful again at the Australian championships at the 2024 Narooma Oyster Festival, he can have another crack at the European flat oysters.
"Not knowing the shell hardness, I kept going through the shell - the top is tough and the bottom is soft and brittle," he said.
Mr Dennis was the only competitor hailing from the southern hemisphere, and made history as the first Indigenous Australian to reach the international oyster shucking stage.
Although the oysters proved to be challenging at times, Mr Dennis found they had more texture and "body" than oysters found in Australia.
Mr Dennis is originally from Walgett in northwest New South Wales and moved to Batemans Bay 22 years ago.
It was there that he made his move into the oyster industry, first discovering the tasty morsels during a two-week work experience stint with T & J Lucas Oysters.
He later joined C & J Single Seed Oysters then John and Jim Yiannaros, who taught him how to shuck like an expert. Mr Yiannaros went head-to-head with Mr Dennis at the Narooma Oyster Festival in a dead heat, ultimately giving his mentee the opportunity to shuck on the world stage.
Mr Dennis said he and his partner spent time travelling around Ireland and "appreciated" the greenness of the countryside. He discovered the long, rich and at times, turbulent history of the country.
After seeing Ireland's willingness to embrace its culture and connection with country and produce, Mr Dennis hopes Australia can follow the European country's footsteps.
"Their government has a lot to do with sponsoring events like that and boosting the industry," he said, "It was good to see the government help fund it and to recognise the history that exists".
He said the event was "heartfelt" and he hopes that the culture and history of First Nations peoples could be shared in a "joyful" way in Australian festivals in the future.
"It was a good experience and I thank Narooma Rocks for making it happen.
"If I win the championships [next year], I'll compete again."