What we need to do to reclaim Eurovision glory (and a tip for an outsider tonight)

If we want Ireland to reach the Eurovision finals, we need to change how we pick the entry song, so says John Dolan ahead of tonight's Eurovision final
What we need to do to reclaim Eurovision glory (and a tip for an outsider tonight)

Wild Youth, didn't make it to tonight's Eurovision final. Picture: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

AT what stage will Ireland stop basking in its Eurovision triumphs in the dim and distant part, and start to realise that we have a serious quality issue with our modern-day submissions?

Maybe tonight, if hot favourites Sweden draw level with us on a record seven wins apiece?

Or maybe this will act as a wake-up call: Ireland has failed to qualify for the final in 11 of the last 17 years - and twice when we did, we finished last. Dismal.

The latest entry to that roll of ignominy came on Tuesday, when Wild Youth failed to finish in the top 10 of 15 acts in their semi-final with their song We Are One.

I wrote here when I first heard it that I thought it had a chance - just a chance - of making the final, although it was never going to win the contest outright.

The track has a decent anthemic quality, and the venue, Liverpool, is the most Irish of English cities.

However, events conspired against Ireland.

Firstly, four or five of the best songs in the contest were all grouped in our semi-final on Tuesday. Then we had the setback that the UK would be voting only in Thursday’s second semi-final, and not ours - our neighbours always give us a high vote.

Still, the task of coming in the top ten of 15 should hardly be taxing for a proud musical nation like Ireland - yet we continually fail to meet even that low bar.

Then there was the curious ‘culture wars’ spat a few weeks ago, when Wild Youth sacked their choreographer because of views he had posted on social media.

It’s hard to know if that had any effect either way on votes, but when an author as famous and influential as JK Rowling is slagging the band off, I can’t imagine it is a helpful situation.

Even the band’s name struck a note of discord - many felt the members of Wild Youth looked nearer to 30 than a student bus card. And the band’s vibe was more trainee accountant than James Dean, to be honest (with apologies to trainee accountants).

In fact, when you think about it, has Ireland ever sent a truly cool act to Eurovision? Do we even do cool in this country? Yes, we do ‘sound out’ in a Paul Mescal way very well, but achingly hip tends to be more of a European thing.

Remo Forrer (centre) who is a favourite tongiht. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Remo Forrer (centre) who is a favourite tongiht. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

So, yet again Irish people will be pressing our noses against the shop window tonight, while the Eurovision party goes on without us. The fact it will be held just over the Irish Sea - the closest it has been to these shores since it was at The Point in 1997 - will only make our FOMO worse.

What on earth are we going to do to arrest this long and painful slide into Eurovision oblivion - we aren’t even also-rans any more, as 2018 was the last time we got a run at the final. FIVE YEARS!

Well, it won’t surprise you to hear I am suggesting a complete overhaul of our selection process.

Some Cork guy once said that if you fail to prepare, you should prepare to fail - and Ireland’s way of choosing our Eurovision entry is clearly at the root of our chronic problems, and must be scrapped.

Sure, on the surface it’s a democratic and inclusive process - but it continually sends a poor song to represent us.

Currently, songwriters are given a month window in which to submit a song, and for 2023, 330 entries were received. A jury panel whittles these down to six, who perform on the Late Late Show Eurosong special.

The winning song is then selected by a combination of votes - a third from an international jury, a third from a national jury, and a third from public televoting.

This process sounds fair... but it is a process that keeps letting us down. 

Out of 330 entries, was We Are One by Wild Youth really the best we could muster? Did it blow you away when you first heard it?

If I told you the winning song topped both the national jury and public televote polls - and that the international jury had it second - you would have to deduce that this system is not working.

Either Ireland has no decent songwriters (which I do not believe), or decent songwriters are not entering the contest (which is conceivable), or the jury are failing to spot the pearls among the muck (which is possible).

As for the public vote, as I have said here on countless occasions, asking viewers of The Late Late Show to have a say in our Eurovision entry - when few of them will even bother to watch the event - is madness.

No, these juries that select our song have to go, and we need to stop inviting an older demographic of the public to have their say too.

They have had their chance, the votes are in - and they are not fit for purpose.

So, what to do instead?

Well, I think we should scrap this democracy and create a dictatorship to choose our song.

Here’s what the UK have done - and it’s shown early signs of being successful.

After years of performances at Eurovision almost as dismal as ours, the UK decided to stop asking the public to vote on the song, and instead asked a record company to provide an act and song as a fait accompli... and it is working.

Sam Ryder. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Sam Ryder. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

This process catapulted Sam Ryder to stardom last year, when he came second with Space Man - the UK’s best placing since 1998.

Their entry tonight, Mae Muller, is also tipped to do well.

The record company is handed complete control of the process, and selects an entry that will tick all the right boxes to attract a Europe-wide vote.

It might sound counter-intuitive - taking away the public vote from a contest where the public vote is ultimately hugely important - and nations like Sweden seem to do very well in that system.

But there is something amiss in our selection system, and it’s time we tried the UK process, to see if we can have better results in 2024.

I mean, we couldn’t do any worse, could we?

Sweden are pretty much nailed on to win tonight, so I am going to provide a tip for a good outside bet to finish in the top ten.

Switzerland’s Remo Forrer has the best ballad in Watergun, which touches on topical war themes - they’re 5-2 to finish in the top ten.

I also think Belgium’s Gustav - a Boy George lookalike - and his song Because Of You are a good each-way bet to finish in the top five - they are 100-1 to win it.

Two decent songs there.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

People holding phone with App

It's all about Cork!

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

It's all about Cork!

App Store LogoGoogle Play Logo

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Contact Us Cookie Policy Privacy Policy Terms and Conditions

© Evening Echo Ltd, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork. Registered in Ireland: 523713

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more