We Irish are in the somewhat unique position of having experienced both the glorious highs and the dismal lows of the Eurovision Song Contest. To think there was a period of time when victory was expected of us every year – pffft! (damn you, telephone voting.)
Our performances in recent years haven't been great (we failed to qualify in 2014, came last in 2013 and 19th in 2012), but hopefully Tipperary teenager Molly Sterling will do the business for us this year with her song 'Playing by Numbers'. No pressure, or anything.
The contest began in 1956 but Ireland's first entry wasn't until 1965. Thinking back on the glory days had us reminiscing about some of Ireland's finest Eurovision moments, which you can see below.
In the interests of balance, it would be wrong not to include some of our not-so-fine moments, too. You can also see them below, too.
Johnny Logan – 'Hold Me Now' (1987)
Let's start with the King of Eurovision, Mr. Sean Sherrard - or Johnny Logan, as we know him. Did you know that Logan was actually born in Australia? His Irish family returned to the aul sod when he was three, and thus was born a legend of the contest. 'Hold Me Now' was actually Logan's second Eurovision win; he'd previously bagged the prize in 1980 with 'What's Another Year'. Glorious.
Niamh Kavanagh – 'In Your Eyes' (1993)
This is one of our all-time favourite Irish Eurovision songs – a belter of a tune performed by Finglas native Niamh Kavanagh, who was 25 at the time. It was also the first time that Ireland had won the Eurovision on home turf, as the contest was held at Mill Street in Cork after Linda Martin's victory the previous year. Kavanagh represented Ireland again in 2010 with 'It's For You', but unfortunately didn't fare as well – she came 23rd out of 25th. Still, we'll always have 'In Your Eyes'…
Paul Harrington & Charlie McGettigan – 'Rock 'n' Roll Kids' (1994)
Twenty-one years later, this song still stands up. Harrington and McGettigan's simple guitar and piano composition marked the third consecutive year that Ireland won the Eurovision, scoring a whopping 226 points – and marking the first time ever that a song had scored over 200 points in the final.
Dana - 'All Kinds of Everything' (1970)
I know, I know. Dana these days is a different proposition to Dana in those days, but her entry in 1970 was the first time that Ireland had won, in our sixth year of entry. Forget the fact that it's sickly-sweet nonsense. Before that, we’d come close in 1967, when Sean Dunphy's 'If I Could Choose' came second (it was beaten by Sandie Shaw's 'Puppet on a String', FYI – no shame in that).
Linda Martin – 'Why Me?' (1992)
I know, I know. Linda Martin these days is a differ... you know the drill. In 1992, Martin had been known predominantly as a singer in Chips, a Northern Irish band who had a few hits in the 1970s and 1980s, and as Ireland's 1984 Eurovision entrant with the Johnny Logan-penned 'Terminal 3' – which was narrowly beaten into second place. She teamed up with Logan again to greater success with the stomping 'Why Me?' in 1992, and the fact that we beat the UK into second place (take that, Michael Ball!) made it all the sweeter.
Eimear Quinn – 'The Voice' (1996)
This gorgeous, mystical folk tune performed by 24-year-old Dubliner Eimear Quinn was written by Brendan Graham, who had also written (and won with) 'Rock 'n' Roll Kids' two years earlier. The song was originally intended for the band Dervish, but Graham decided to ask Quinn to sing it when he heard her singing with Anúna. It was the clear winner in 1996, but it also marked the last time that Ireland won Eurovision – 19 years ago. 19 years. Bring it on home, Molly!
…. AND THE LOWS
Donna and Joseph McCaul – 'Love?' (2005)
It says as much that even the Athlone brother and sister have since distanced themselves from this song, which didn't make it past the semi-final stage in Ukraine in 2005. Probably just as well.
Dustin the Turkey – 'Irlande Douze Points' (2008)
What were you thinking, RTE? Seriously, what were you thinking? There's novelty songs, and then there's a weird rubber turkey that's an in-joke solely for Irish people. Again, it failed to qualify for the final. However, it did reach number 5 on the Irish singles chart. Not sure what that says about us.
Ryan Dolan – 'Only Love Survives' (2013)
There's only one thing worse than being knocked out in the semi-finals, and that's coming last in the competition. It's happened to us twice in our Eurovision history – and this was one of them, with the Tyrone singer clocking up just 5 points in total.
Jedward – 'Waterline' (2012)
The twins' entry in 2011, 'Lipstick', was actually a decent little pop song, but a Samuel Beckett quote comes to mind when we think about Jedward representing Ireland for the second consecutive year in 2012: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better." Particularly apt since they placed 8th in 2011, and 19th in 2012.
Eamonn Toal – 'Millennium of Love' (2000)
Look, we know Eurovision is camp. We know it's cheesy. We know it's sort of ridiculous. But 'Millennium of Love'? Come on. The song's Wikipedia page says it all: "Eamonn sings about the negative aspects of the modern world, but expresses hope that humanity will overcome these and let our carbon footprints leave a harvest for future generations." Not quite Eurovision fodder, so. It placed 6th, in the end.
Dervish – 'They Can't Stop the Spring' (2007)
They're a well-respected Irish trad band, but Dervish didn't fare too well at the Eurovision. In fact, they came last in the 2007 contest with a song co-written by journalist John Waters and lyrics like "… and the archipelagic icicles have melted like the cage." Right, so. It came 24th, clocking up just 5 points awarded by the Albanian jury.
THIS YEAR'S ENTRY….
17-year-old Molly Sterling was selected to represent Ireland with her song 'Playing with Numbers' via a public vote and the combined votes of regional juries on RTE's Eurosong back in February. Paddy Power currently have the odds on an Irish victory at 100/1 - not exactly confidence-inspiring - while the current favourite is Sweden at 2/1.
The 60th Eurovision Song Contest takes place at 8pm this Saturday.