He came, he busked, he conquered... How Hansard wooed Hollywood
This year will be remembered as the year Glen Hansard got his sweet revenge on the legions of rock critics who have dissed The Frames over the years (yours truly included). Although bigger than Jesus among the Whelan's singer-songwriter cabal, it had seemed the Ballymun busker would never crack America like U2.
But then he starred with Marketa Irglova in his old bandmate John Carney's no-budget indie romance Once ... and his star went supernova.
Steven Spielberg and Heath Ledger swooned and the begrudgers' collective jaw hit the ground at the sight of Hansard receiving an Oscar from John Travolta and posing alongside George Clooney.
Sales of the DVD and Swell Season album skyrocketed and a Broadway musical of the film was announced -- opening in February. And the Glen-bashers were reduced to wailing in the street when news came through that the Frames frontman is to appear as himself in an episode of The Simpsons.
Almost as unlikely was the success of three padres from Northern Ireland. The Priests scored a number one album at home for their take on ye olde religious standards.
Comparisons to Father Ted were inevitable, but brothers Fr Eugene and Fr Martin O'Hagan and Fr David Delargy have set their sights much farther than Craggy Island: they signed a $2m (€1.4m) deal with Sony Worldwide who launched the album in 33 countries, with U2/Manic Street Preachers producer Mike Hedges behind the controls. We can safely say they're all singing from the same hymn sheet.
Another Irish institution that has been hoovering up the granny pound is Daniel O'Donnell, who also breached the top 10 of the Irish and UK album charts with his latest CD, Country Boy. Amazingly, our own Ian O'Doherty came out as a diehard fan in these pages. Next week: Ian reveals he is really a Palestinian Liverpudlian vegetarian . . .
Just when you thought it was safe to get into a lift, Enya makes a Christmas album. This time, though, she ditched the invented language of her previous record: yes, Elvish has left the building.
This year will also be remembered as the year when everyone read The Script. Tipped here last year as ones to watch, the pride of the Liberties reached the summit of the Irish and UK charts with their self-titled debut album in August.
Danny O'Donoghue and Mark Sheehan colonised the airwaves with the singles We Cry, The Man Who Cannot Be Moved and Breakeven -- not that they ever forgot where they came from: Poolbeg Power Station featured heavily in one of their videos.
Globe-conquering rockers Snow Patrol took back the city when they gave the stadiums a miss and played a fans-only gig in the unlikely environs of Dublin's Gate Theatre to launch their album A Hundred Million Suns. Rumours that they quaffed vintage Petraeus backstage with Brian Friel and Harold Pinter are unconfirmed.
Meanwhile, Lisa Hannigan struck out on her own after parting company with Damien Rice's band last year. Lisa released her debut solo album Sea Sew to rave reviews, and toured America.
Hannigan has to be a favourite to win next year's Choice Prize. That said, how many punters predicted Super Extra Bonus Party would win this year?
She'll probably have stiff competition, though, from David Holmes, whose Holy Pictures album contained some of the year's most soulful grooves.
Also this summer, Boyzone carried out their threat to reform when they headlined Croke Park, but the concert was overshadowed by Sugababes' no-show. Louis Walsh probably didn't lose any sleep, though, as he had a prime-time judge's seat again on ITV's X Factor. This year, Cheryl Cole emerged as the people's newly crowned pop princess. And with Girls Aloud she also released a couple of the year's best singles (and The Promise was probably the best video).
And the nation fell in love with the singing haircut that is Eoghan Quigg. His tears for his fellow contestant Diana after her ejection from the show made millions want to mother him.
It wasn't so much a case of growing up as throwing up in public for Amy Winehouse, who made it all too easy for the red-tops in 2008. But after cancelling her RDS show last year, at least she kept it together long enough to play Oxegen in July, where she reminded us why she became famous in the first place with a superb set. She may be trouble, but Amy's got soul too.
Elsewhere, there were highly trumpeted comebacks from some of rock's marquee names -- but Oasis, Guns 'N' Roses and AC/DC stuck all too rigidly to their respective blueprints, with ever diminishing returns.
Hairy Southern rockers Kings Of Leon lost some of their face fur but gained even more fans as their Only By The Night album sold squillions, as did Coldplay's Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends, despite getting a kicking in the London Independent, whose rock critic Andy Gill wrote a scathing j'accuse entitled 'Why I Hate Coldplay'. Personally, I rather liked Violet Hill and Viva La Vida, although would Chris and the boys please get thee to a stylist? Fast.
Finally, despite the washout of a summer we endured (again), both Oxegen (especially REM's set) and Electric Picnic provided some much-needed relief. Particularly the latter -- where else could you happen upon a band playing on a big wooden ship in the middle of the woods at 4am, with stalls handing out free coffee?
Roll on 2009.