Irlande nil pointe is a phrase we know well, but we didn't expect a Father Ted parody during the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo: Albania's Rona Nishliu sums it up nicely.
It's no secret that Ireland expected to do well this year: We, and the bookies, thought we had secured at least a Top Ten finish with Ryan Dolan and his self-penned 'Only Love Survives', a track described by many as perfect Eurovision fodder. That, however, was our first mistake, and probably what left us languishing at the bottom of the leader board.
If there's one thing we've learned from the Eurovision Song Contest over the past few years, it's that complacency and gimmicks don't win the prize. In fact, more often than not, a cracking tune walks home with the title in hand, and the price of staging next year's contest hanging over the head of their national broadcaster. Was 'Only Love Survives' decent Eurovision fodder? Yes. Was it a Eurovision-winning tune? No, and neither was anything else we've sent since Eimear Quinn stole the show in 1996. Sure poor Ryan just wasn't up to par with Alexander 'you'd Rybak him any day' Rybak and his 'Fairytale'...
Both Twitter and Facebook have been ablaze since voting began during Saturday night's contest, and the Irish media have been getting in on the controversy. Did Dolan really deserve last place? God no, he was far better than that: It's rather sad to think that the Lithuanian lad who sang about his shoes managed to nab 14 points from Europe, while we struggled to get 5.
Of course, that's where the 'Bloc Voting' advocates come in. There has been talk of little else on forums and Facebook, with angry anti-European comments appearing beneath news stories on popular websites too. The Bloc Voting theory isn't one that I, as a long time fan of the competition, ascribe to. Denmark didn't claim victory because of the Bloc, and neither did Sweden, Germany, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Finland, Greece, Ukraine or Turkey before them. We could continue, but the list is endless. And as for Azerbaijan in 2011? I never understood the appeal of El and Nikki myself, so we're leaving them off the list, and why Azerbaijan's AC Slater came second this year is quite frankly beyond comprehension. Unless it was that smouldering stare...
To put it simply, all the Eurovision winners we have seen throughout the years have won because Europe (and the countries that call themselves European for the sake of the contest) really liked their song, be it because it was catchy, original, or very well staged. Take Lordi in 2006 for example: Yes, the masks were a gimmick, but Hard Rock Hallelujah was a cracking tune that you couldn't get out of your head for a week after the contest. To this day the Finnish entry holds cult status, even being featured on our own Late Late Show earlier this year.
From Helena Paparizou to Alexander Rybak, Lena Meyer Landrut to Loreen, Eurovision winning tunes have varied throughout the years, but that's something Ireland doesn't seem to have come to terms with. You quite simply cannot write 'A Song for Europe' any more, because Europe's taste keeps changing. You need a song that extends beyond that, that merits memory, and offers something in terms of personality and style. Was Europe on the hunt for another David Guetta/Danny Zuko? No. Was the continent captivated by the haunting ethno-pop which emerged from a Danish Game of Thrones-esque bare-footed 'princess'? Totally, and quite rightly so. Sure she's like the lovechild of Loreen and Diana Vickers...
If we're really going to get into it, I may as well be honest: I wasn't overly keen on 'Only Love Survives' the first time I heard it. I was rooting for young Amy on the big night, even though I felt her ballad wasn't really going anywhere. In summary, I was under the impression that the song was the best of an OK bunch, and praying that someone would tell the production crew to turn down the backing singers, who were easily drowning out the Strabane man. You know things aren't great when you're silently thinking that Jedward's 'Lipstick' is the best thing Ireland has sent to the Eurovision in 17 years. If they'd had better voices, the song could actually have gone places.
If there's one thing that is often said about this island, it's that it's not what you know but who you know that matters, and when it comes to Eurosong that's most definitely the case. Year after year we see acts and writers emerging from the same stables. Take Dolan for example: His management team brought us Jedward, staged their national tours, and even came up with the idea for that Waterfall fountain. From the mentors to the song-writers, we're still in with the in-crowd, and The Late Late Show Eurovision panel won't voice honest opinions with regard to any tune for fear of upsetting 'someone's sister'. We're not going to cast stones, they've done their best and done an OK job of it (nobody could say Ryan and co didn't give a decent performance on the night. They really didn't deserve to come last.), but perhaps now it's time to admit defeat and give somebody else a shot at the err, big time?
The nation continues to complain about Europe's lack of love for the Emerald Isle, putting defeat down to everything from sour grapes over our decision to send that turkey in 2008, to Enda Kenny's decision to bow to Ms Merkel, but our abysmal performance in the voting had nothing to do with any of the above: The fact of the matter is, the voters and juries just weren't that into our song, and nobody, not even the Eurovision fan sites, saw that coming. Neither did we but we probably should have as soon as Emmelie de Forest opened her pretty little mouth. Acts like Denmark, Norway and Ukraine were just in a different league.
So, in summary, if Ireland really wants to be competitive on the Eurovision stage, it's high time we waved goodbye to the familiar faces and really started thinking outside the box. No, we don't need to regress to Dustin or Dervish-like antics and make another pan-European laughing stock of ourselves, but bringing back the old Dana factor wouldn't exactly hurt our chances.
Sure wasn't she the Lena Meyer Landrut of her day?