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Sunday 20 October 2019

Marty Whelan: 'Ireland getting through, Cyprus' dance moves and Bono's love child have been highlight of Eurovision week'

Irish Eurovision hopeful Ryan O'Shaughnessy and Marty Whelan. Picture Andres Poveda
Irish Eurovision hopeful Ryan O'Shaughnessy and Marty Whelan. Picture Andres Poveda
Marty Whelan

Marty Whelan, in Lisbon

It’s my twentieth year coming to the Eurovision.

My first time ever going to the song contest was when Johnny Logan had his second win in 1987 with Hold Me Now.

But I started coming back properly around the 2000 mark and have been a regular Eurovision face and voice since then.

The memories of it are phenomenal - and you’re filled with a degree of nostalgia every time you come back.

But it’s always new and different. I think it’s becoming relevant again because it is watched by young people, and babies, and grannies. I think that’s the secret to its success it’s inclusivity - people like that.   

I flew into Lisbon last Saturday.

The first day we have a big meet and greet and that is wonderful because I get to say hello to my colleagues and contemporaries across Europe. It’s great fun.

I also get to meet the contestants, and some of the dancers.

Then we sit in on rehearsals and take notes - to see who is doing what, and get a feel of the songs.

We are also told the correct way to pronounce  different contestant’s names so there are no mistakes on air.

This year, I haven’t been to any Eurovision parties - that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I was thrilled when we made it through the semi-final and announced on air that I was going to need to lie down in a darkened room for quite some time.

Over the past few years, I had become used to us not getting through.

So to find out Bang! We are in! Well, it was very exciting altogether - especially after spending three hours in a box, at the top of a building, waiting for a possibility.

As a result, I may have let my feelings out but sometimes you have to let yourself go and be in the moment.

Ryan's performance was edited out on Chinese TV this week because it featured a same sex dance routine.

Shortly after that news broke the European Broadcasting Union announced it was terminating their contract with the Chinese station as a consequence.

I thought that was a wonderful decision and  I was extremely impressed by how quickly they acted.

As I said before the Eurovision is all about inclusivity - it has to be about that. It has to be open to all people.

The highlight of the week was definitely Ryan getting through to the final. Aside from that Cyprus has also been a bit of a high for me, but for completely different reasons.

She certainly makes the most of herself but I don’t think she can have eaten more than a scallion for about a year but she is terrific. She is another strong contender.

I also love the German song because it is about a man losing his father and it is very emotional and sweet. Although the singer reminds me of a cross between Mick Hucknall and Bono.

You start to whittle down the racers and riders early on in the week.

I think there are some strong contenders and then there is the mad stuff - pyrotechnics and men jumping out of God knows where and stair cases on fire. But that's part of the appeal.

I think we have a great chance of doing well.

Ryan knows this gig, he has done this sort of thing before on Britain’s Got Talent so he has great presence. And I thinks it's a fantastic song. 

I am very much looking to this evening.

I stick to the late, great Terry Wogan’s advise that you don’t open the bottle of Baileys until the eighth country reveals who got Douze points.

I couldn’t start the Bailey’s any earlier than that - it’s bad enough what comes out of my mouth as it is.

Sometimes you need the Baileys - especially the last few years when we weren’t in it and we had nothing to talk about.

But this year has been different - it really has been something special, there's a great buzz back home and I can't wait to see how we fare this evening. Whatever the result Ryan has done us very, very proud.

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