ONE of Ireland's leading bookmakers has installed 19-year-old Charleville singer Keith Hanley as one of the favourites to win the prestigious 2013 Voice of Ireland competition.
After making it through the second week of the battles stages last Sunday evening, Boylesports have quoted Keith at 5/1 to win the title behind Dubliner Andrew Mann (3/1) and Dylan Powell (9/2).
Keith went head-to-head with Niamh Armstrong on last Sunday's show in a duet of recent chart topping Emile Sande and Labrynth hit Beneath Your Beautiful.
The performance had Bressie on the edge of his seat, while fellow judge Sharon was reduced to tears. Keith and NIamh's mentor, Jamilia, admitted that choosing between the pair was her most difficult decision to date, before selecting Keith to go through to the live shows.
With Fermoy girl Kelly Mongan already assured of her place in the next round, Shannon Murphy from Castletownroche made it a hat-trick for North Cork also making it through to the live shows, which get underway on St Patrick's night. This despite going up against highly fancied Welsh singer Kirilee Dermot on a song that she had never even heard before.
While Shannon struggled during rehearsals with Sinead O'Connor's hit Mandinka she managed to win through with mentor Bressie saying he believed she was the singer who could bring more to the show.
"I did find the song a tough one to learn, but it worked out in the end with both Kian and Jamelia saying they hoped I would go through," Shannon told The Corkman.
"Jerry Fish said he felt I had a freshness and kookiness that everybody would love. Thankfully, Bressie was also impressed and put me through," she added.
Shannon is, however, under no illusions about how tough the competition is going to be in the week's ahead and said she agreed with the bookie's estimation that Andrew Mann is going to be the one to beat.
"I suppose we are now going into unchartered territory and anything can happen on the live shows. I am confident of doing well, but above anything I want to enjoy the experience as it happens. You hope you can win, but we will see how it goes," she said.
They bubbly 18-year-old said it was great to see North Cork so well represented on the live shows.
"There is no rivalry between the three of us, we get on really well. If one of us does get voted off, I know that the other two will have their full backing and support," she said.