The triumph of hope over experience which is Ireland’s annual entry into the Eurovision will continue in front of a live TV audience on Friday night.
Six acts will contest the Eurosong final on The Late Late Show on Friday in a bid to represent Ireland at this year's Eurovision, which will be held in Milan, Italy, in May.
It is the first time since 2015 that the Irish entry has been subject to a competition. When Molly Sterling represented Ireland at that year's Eurovision but failed to make it past the semi-finals, it was decided that the Irish song would be picked by a panel of experts from then on.
However, Ireland has failed to qualify for five of the last six Eurovision finals and during that period the best the country has finished is 16th in 2018 with Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s Together.
Last year's entry saw Lesley Roy finishing last in her semi-final with her song Maps, with Roy complaining afterwards that she was "gutted and still a little confused as to what happened on the production side, with cameras breaking before we started".
The six acts featured in Friday night's final include Patrick O'Sullivan singing One Night, One Kiss, One Promise, a song that has a distinct U2 vibe; Janet Grogan with her big ballad Ashes of Yesterday; and Brendan Murray, who sings the piano ballad Real Love.
By contrast, Yeah We're Gonna Get Out Of It by Miles Graham is an upbeat pop number written during lockdown that includes a horn section. Meanwhile, Rachel Goode, a classically trained soprano, hits the high notes on the disco number I'm Loving Me, and Brooke Scullion will be the last entrant to perform, with the 1980s-inspired That's Rich. Bookies have Janet Grogan as the favourite to win on Friday night.
Brendan Murray previously represented Ireland in the 2017 Eurovision in Kyiv. Patrick O'Sullivan's entry is co-written by Westlife singer Nicky Byrne, who was undeterred by not qualifying for the final when he represented Ireland in 2016. O'Sullivan's song is also written by Danny O'Reilly from The Coronas and All Tvvins's Lar Kaye. Janet Grogan was Byrne's backing singer at the Eurovision.
Unlike Byrne, none of the performers are household names, but they will be hoping a large television audience and the even bigger audience of the Eurovision contest will give them a boost in profile.
Most have been through the rigours of reality TV before. O'Sullivan won the RTÉ singing game show Last Singer Standing last year, while Grogan got to the final; Murray got to the semi-final of The X Factor in 2018 and Brooke Scullion got to the final of The Voice UK in 2020.
Irish songwriters were undeterred by Ireland’s serial failure to please Europe’s judges and more than 300 entries were submitted for this year’s song contest.
The Eurosong winner will be chosen by the combined votes awarded from the public vote, an international jury and a studio jury.
Eurovision stalwart Marty Whelan will provide the commentary on Friday. He joked that the tripartite voting arrangement means "everyone can blame each other" if the Irish entry does not succeed this time around.
Returning to a public competition is an “important sign that we are taking it seriously and we are saying: ‘Do you know what? It is a national song contest, let’s go and do it and make it as entertaining as we can’”.
Entertaining is one thing, but picking a song to even make the Eurovision final will be the ultimate goal.