Sunday 27 May 2018

Will Ireland make the Eurovision final? Here's our expert's 10 qualifiers

Can Ireland make the Eurovision final for the first time in five years?

Ireland's Ryan O'Shaughnessyperforms 'Together' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda
Ireland's Ryan O'Shaughnessyperforms 'Together' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda
Eleni Foureira from Cyprus performs 'Fuego' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda
Ireland's Ryan O'Shaughnessyperforms 'Together' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda
Finland's Saara Aalto performs 'Monsters' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda
Estonia's Elina Nechayeva performes 'La Forza' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda
Israel's Netta performs 'TOY' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda
Azerbaijan's Aisel performing 'X My Heart' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda
Brian O'Reilly

Brian O'Reilly

The 25th semi final in Eurovision history has been dubbed a 'bloodbath' - with 17 of the 19 songs in contention to qualify.

It's not how you want your semi final to be labelled - although the second semi final has been dubbed a 'snoozefest' which isn't much better.

Normally the split between semi finals is fairly even, but tonight's show has almost all the big favourites for the final, so qualifying space is a premium.

To start, I'm going to knock out the two songs which I deem to be no-hopers - Iceland and FYR Macedonia.

Let's put through some dead certs to qualify - Estonia, Israel, and Cyprus.

Estonia have one of the most stunning stage shows of the year, a pop-opera song delivered flawlessly by singer Elina - it will sail through and be one to watch in the final.

Estonia's Elina Nechayeva performes 'La Forza' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda
Estonia's Elina Nechayeva performes 'La Forza' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda

Israel are the hot favourites, with a very modern ethno-tinged pop song with a very contemporary message in the #MeToo era. It's an easy trip to the final for them.

Cyprus has shot up the bookies rankings since her first rehearsal last week with her Beyonce-esque performance, and Eurovision always loves an ethno-pop song. After the jury rehearsal last night, the song is now favourite to win the whole contest.

Eleni Foureira from Cyprus performs 'Fuego' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda
Eleni Foureira from Cyprus performs 'Fuego' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda

That's three in, two out - and the remaining 14's fate is just educated guess work.

Azerbaijan have a 100pc qualification record, and while their Scandi-written pop song is very generic, it should get over the line.

Israel's Netta performs 'TOY' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda
Israel's Netta performs 'TOY' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda

Czech Republic should also have enough appeal to televoters and the jury to secure a spot.

Bulgaria have been top five the last two years - finishing second last year - but I think this is their weakest entry of the three. I find the song soulless, but it's vocally strong and staged well, so should qualify.

Finland's Saara Aalto performs 'Monsters' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda
Finland's Saara Aalto performs 'Monsters' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda

We're down to four places, and 11 songs left in the running. Now we're really getting into guessing territory.

I'm going to eliminate the ones I think will be closer to the bottom of the scoreboard - Croatia, Albania, Belarus and Switzerland. That leaves us with seven in play.

Greece's ethno-ballad leaves me cold, but I can see it ticking the right boxes in the right places to qualify.

Azerbaijan's Aisel performing 'X My Heart' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda
Azerbaijan's Aisel performing 'X My Heart' for the Eurovision Song Contest dress rehearsal for semi-final 1. Picture Andres Poveda

I think Finland - represented by X Factor runner-up Saara Aalto - should make the cut. The performance is a bit messy, and the backing vocal effects used on the recorded version of the song have been lost - but her vocals should sell it. I don't by any means think it's a sure thing - and she could be the traditional 'shock' elimination from the semis.

Left in the running for the final two places are Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Lithuania and Ireland.

I'm going to dispose of Belgium next. Bit of a personal preference here - it was one of the bookies favourites after it was selected but the song has always left me cold. The running order position and lack of broad appeal should see it fall short.

Armenia have only failed to qualify for the final once in their Eurovision history, in 2011. This is one of their weaker entries, so if they are to repeat the 2011 fate this would be the year.

Lithuania have a very sweet, sentimental ballad that could have broad enough appeal with juries and the voting public to see it over the line.

Austria have a mid-tempo ballad, with a gospel choir-effect on the backing vocals raising it up, but the stage performance is slightly messy to my eyes.

Ireland's Ryan O'Shaughnessy has one of the best (in my opinion, the best) ballad in the entire competition this year. It's our best-staged effort since Jedward in 2011, and arguably the best song we've sent in over 20 years.

I think Armenia are vulnerable in this semi final. They traditionally get points from south eastern European countries and Russia, and there is a lack of those friendly nations voting in this semi final. They do have a large diaspora population in play, but going out on a limb I'm going to say they'll miss out. History suggests I may be wrong however.

The remaining three songs are going to have strong jury appeal. Lithuania will perform well in the televote, as several friendly nations are voting. It's also staged effectively and makes good use of the bridge to the side of the stage. I think they'll take a spot.

Then it comes down to Austria versus Ireland.

In what is a completely heart over head decision, I think Ireland will just make it. I've been writing this column for five years and haven't been wrong about Ireland's fate yet, so here's hoping. Ryan and the RTE team deserve it, as huge effort has gone in to making this right on stage.

Warning signs in the results that Ireland might not make it are the inclusion of Austria, Armenia or Belgium.  But beyond my top three being in and bottom two being out, anything could happen in an unpredictable semi final.

 

Qualifiers:

Estonia

Israel

Cyprus

Czech Republic

Azerbaijan

Bulgaria

Greece

Finland

Lithuania

Ireland

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