Ireland won’t win Eurovision - but entry IS good enough to make the final

This year will be different for the Irish at Eurovision, so says John Dolan in his weekly column
Ireland won’t win Eurovision - but entry IS good enough to make the final

FLYING THE FLAG: The band Wild Youth have been selected to represent Ireland in the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest

WHEN it comes to Ireland and the Eurovision Song Contest, it’s long been a case of ‘how the mighty have fallen’.

A generation ago, this country was racking up wins in its sleep. In recent years, we could barely buy a vote.

Ireland has progressed from the semi-finals just once in the past decade - and, forget all the bunkum about voting bias, we largely got what we deserved for a succession of dud songs.

But, after hearing the winning entry from the RTÉ Late Late Eurosong special last week, I think this year might be different.

No, I’m not suggesting that We Are One by Wild Youth will win the whole contest - in fact, I’m personally not blown away by it at all.

But I do think we finally have an entry that has a great chance of making the final.

Yes, Marty Whelan, I think you’ll be dusting down your best suit on Saturday, May 13, because Ireland are back in the game!


There are several reasons for this surge of optimism.

First, of course, is the song.

It’s... not bad, not bad at all. Crucially, it has a banging chorus and a message of unity that should resonate with a war-torn Europe.

My issue in recent years has never been with the singer - this country has never had a problem producing people who can hit a note. It was always been about the song. It is a ‘song contest’ after all.

The mistake we often made in the past was to try to chase the theme of the previous year’s winner, or, even worse, to come up with something low-key and maudlin.

Yes, ballads can and do win Eurovision, but the event is a party peopled mainly by young people - and nobody likes a party-pooper unless the ‘slowie’ is an absolute show-stopper.

The other issue in recent years has not been resolved - and that is the decision to ask the audience of The Late Late Show to vote for our Eurovision entry.

This is simply bizarre.

The Late Late audience is mainly made up of mature people. How many of them will even watch Eurovision, never mind vote in it (you can’t vote for your own country, of course)?

Surely it makes sense to ask a Eurovision age audience to select our Eurovision song?

This is one of the main reasons that Ireland’s recent record has been so poor - our only top 10 result in the last 15 contests was Jedward’s eighth-place way back in 2011. We haven’t reached the top five since 1997.

It is also the reason why I prepared to listen to this year’s chosen Eurovision song with trepidation. Most voters in the event will be hearing it for the first time - so first impressions are everything.

And We Are One by Wild Youth - gasp! - left a favourable impression. It’s uplifting, it’s catchy, it can hit the mark across the continent.

I therefore predict it will make it out of the semi-final in three months’ time.

There are other reasons for optimism this year, too.

The event is being held in the UK’s most Irish city, Liverpool, and Wild Youth are bound to receive a great welcome in the 11,000-seater venue by the River Mersey.

We also got lucky in the semi-final draw, as we landed in the group of 15 rather than 16 nations.

Ten acts will go through each night, so that improves Ireland’s chances slightly.

Wild Youth have been drawn at No.2 in their semi, just avoiding the No.1 graveyard slot when viewers are still settling down and switching on. Hopefully, our band’s rousing chorus and an appreciative audience will get the party started and leave an impression on potential voters.

A tweaking of the voting system for 2023 might also suit Ireland.

The results of the semi-finals will be determined solely by televoting, with no input from national juries. This was the case between 2004 and 2007, when Ireland qualified three times out of four (poor Donna and Joe...), so hopefully it is another boost to our chances.

So, Ireland to qualify for the final, but what then?

Hmmm. given a fair wind, and the city of Liverpool behind us, we might even sneak into the top ten. But I don’t think the song is quite strong enough to raise our hopes to top five levels.

The bookies tend to agree with my verdict thus far, putting Ireland at a healthy 22-1 - but bear in mind most countries have not shown their hand yet and chosen their song.

Of those who have, Ukraine - who won last year’s contest on a wave of support and sympathy following the invasion by Russia - have selected another strong contender.

Assuming the war is still on then, Ukraine can expect a groundswell of support across Europe, particularly as they would be hosting the event if it was peacetime.

Overtly political songs are not allowed at Eurovision, but their song title, Heart Of Steel, sends a powerful message nonetheless.

It’s a decent tune, too, if a little pedestrian, performed by cool electronic duo, Tvorchi.

Some of the lyrics you can’t help but imagine are directed at a certain Vladimir Putin - who, I assume, would rather fall ‘accidentally’ from a high-rise building than have to sit through Eurovision with all its symbols of peace, rainbow love, and diversity.

Here is part of the first verse:

Sometimes you just gotta know

When to stick your middle finger up in the air

I cannot explain

Tell you how I feel

Life is just a game

And I’m playing for the win

Of the other early Eurovision selections, I was impressed by Norway’s entry, Queen Of Kings, by Alessandra - an operatic dose of girl power - while I await Sweden’s entry with bated breath. They have become the new Ireland in terms of their recent Eurovision record, and are one win away from equalling our proud record of seven victories.

Oh, and of course Eurovision will always give us a chuckle on the lyrics front. Here is a sample of a translation from Albania’s entry, Duje by Albina and five of her family (who all look very earnest and very stern in the video).

They broke up, they killed their lover

They are separated

They forgot that they have a spear

Ah, Eurovision, never change.

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