Friday 9 December 2016

Eurovision 2015: Will Ireland qualify for the final tonight?

Our Eurovision expert – a title which requires no formal qualifications – takes a look at Ireland’s chances of qualifying for the final from tonight’s second semi-final in Vienna.

Published 21/05/2015 | 09:45

Molly Sterling rehearsing in Vienna. Picture: Splash
Molly Sterling rehearsing in Vienna. Picture: Splash
Irish Eurovision hopeful Molly Sterling (17) launched The Great Bear Chain

Molly Sterling takes to the stage tonight in Vienna for Ireland, but will she make the final?

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Not to go too far down the ‘Sound of Music’ route – but let’s start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start, or so I hear).

What are the good points of our entry?

Molly is a fantastic talent, has a beautiful voice and appears at ease on stage, although her lack of actual TV experience shows at times.

Molly Sterling checks out the view from a box at the Vienna State Opera
Molly Sterling checks out the view from a box at the Vienna State Opera

The song – although not a classic Eurovision power ballad – is strong, and the performance appears restrained and composed compared to some of the circus acts she’ll be competing against.

Another positive is the countries that will be voting at the end of the night.

The UK are voting in this semi-final – our friendliest Eurovision neighbour.

Newbies Australia are also eligible to vote tonight, and hopefully our massive expat population there will throw a few points our way.

Molly Sterling poses with tenor Juan Diego Lopez and Marty Whelan at the 'Pop meets Opera' event in Vienna
Molly Sterling poses with tenor Juan Diego Lopez and Marty Whelan at the 'Pop meets Opera' event in Vienna

Although not in a traditional ‘bloc’, we have always gravitated towards to Nordic countries when it comes to voting, and them towards us.

In this semi, Sweden, Norway and Iceland are all competing.

Add on to that another friendly voting ally in Malta, and we should be on a minimum of about 40 points.

In pictures:

Greg French and Molly Sterling.
Greg French and Molly Sterling.

Now to the negatives.

Ireland perform second in the running order, which means we run the risk of being forgotten by the end of the show.

Televoters are notoriously fickle, and have always tended to gravitate towards the last ten songs performed.

However the juries are there to counteract that, and lyrically Molly’s song is one of the strongest, and she sells it incredibly well.

Molly Sterling with Marty Whelan and Niamh Kavanagh in Vienna
Molly Sterling with Marty Whelan and Niamh Kavanagh in Vienna

RTE have learned from mistakes last year, and not overcomplicated the staging.

Last year we saw two middle-aged men Irish dancing around a 20-something dressed like a Game of Thrones character.

For once we didn't blame a Soviet conspiracy for not qualifying, we were just glad Europe didn't see that mess again in the final.

Molly Sterling who will represent Ireland at the Eurovision 2015 in Vienna. Picture; GERRY MOONEY
Molly Sterling who will represent Ireland at the Eurovision 2015 in Vienna. Picture; GERRY MOONEY

A good song was ruined by some of the worst staging Ireland has ever delivered.

This year is very stripped back, just Molly and her piano – along with band and backing singers.

My one critique would be it’s a tiny bit too cluttered – I would have just had Molly, the piano and backing singers – but it’s not something that will cost us in the votes.

Reports from Austria also suggest Molly is missing some of her camera shots, which could also cost us.

She needs to connect with viewers, so looking down the camera is a must.

This is her lack of TV experience showing – the arena won’t notice this, but the 100m people watching at home will.

Molly Sterling and band flying out to Vienna for first Eurovision rehearsals.
Molly Sterling and band flying out to Vienna for first Eurovision rehearsals.

The song is very good, but not incredibly instant – by that I mean it’s not incredibly accessible to listeners on first hearing.

You need to hear it a couple of times before fully getting into it – but obviously the casual Eurovision viewer doesn’t have this luxury.

Out of the 100m people viewing the show tonight, only the million odd viewing here in Ireland will have heard it multiple times.

So now that we’ve looked at the pluses and minuses of our own song, let’s look at the competition for those ten slots.

The certain qualifiers in my opinion are Sweden, Azerbaijan, Norway and Slovenia.

Aside from Azerbaijan, I think the other three could all be winners on Saturday, depending on running order.

Ryan Tubridy meets Molly Sterling on the set of the Late Late Show
Ryan Tubridy meets Molly Sterling on the set of the Late Late Show

That leaves us with six slots to play for.

I think Latvia, Israel, Cyprus and Montenegro are probably next most likely, so that leaves two spots remaining and nine countries after them.

Let’s take out the no-hopers, which means San Marino and Portugal bite the dust.

So that leaves us with two spots and seven countries fighting it out, including us.

Despite their somewhat chequered qualification history, I’m going to give the nod to Lithuania for spot number nine.

It’s a ballad-heavy semi-final, and I think Lithuania is well performed and a fairly decent song – combined with some friendly voting neighbours.

So that’s six countries left, but only one golden ticket to the final.

I think Poland and Switzerland will be out of the running – so we’re into the final four, Ireland, Malta, Czech Republic and Iceland.

Based on reports from last night, Malta had a terrible jury performance, so that will probably take them out of the running.

The Czech Republic have never qualified, and although the song is their best entry, it will probably miss out.

So that leaves the two peripheral islands on the edge of Europe, Ireland and Iceland.

Ireland has been in nine Eurovision semi-finals, and I have predicted our qualification correctly eight of those times (I thought Jedward would miss the cut second time round in 2012).

Reluctant as I am to say it, I think we will miss the cut for the second time in a row this year.

I think our running order position combined with the lack of ‘instantness’ of the song will mean we won’t be part of the 60th final of a competition we have won more than any other country.

Iceland have a better qualification record than us, and they have more pulling power from Northern Europe.

Yes, perhaps we should have got an automatic finalist slot in the 60th final reserved for an entry by the King of Eurovision Johnny Logan, but it was not to be.

However if we don't make it we can be proud, the song was given the best performance it could have been.

What's another year?, as some philosopher who's probably irrelevant to Eurovision once said.

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