Amid cheers, tears and a lifetime supply of confetti, dance act BSD have been crowned winners of Ireland's Got Talent 2019. It's a hard fought victory for the 39-piece Dublin troupe, who earned the favour of the voting public ahead of fancied rivals Fly Youth and Rebel Acro.
“Holy moly…oh my God,” says one of the crew. Around him, his fellow dancers appear divided between shrieks of joy and stunned silence. More than a few look like they might spontaneously combust.
But the real victor is the network formerly known as TV3, which, after just two seasons, has brought forth a genuine ratings juggernaut.
Last year Ireland's Got Talent was toe-to-toe in viewership with Dancing with the Stars on RTÉ (over 500,000 tuned in to the finals of each). Even louder hype ahead of the 2019 grand decider suggests IGT's appeal has, if anything, increased.
The other story to come out of the season is the ongoing popularity of dance acts. Grooving ensembles have long been a big smash on IGT's big brother, Britain's Got Talent. That trend continues on Virgin Media One as hoofers Jake O'Shea, Fionn McMorrow, BSD, Fly Youth and Rebel Acro all make it to the last hurdle.
On the night BSD are impressive – but it's clearly neck-and-neck between them and bookie's tip Fly Youth. Indeed, before the winner is announced, judge Louis Walsh has little doubt as to who should claim the gong, proclaiming Fly Youth the best dance act to have year appeared on IGT (it's going to be awkward when he bumps into BSD at the reception afterwards).
However, Walsh's fellow adjudicator Jason Byrne will have no such misgivings, having awarded BSD his Golden Buzzer pass to the knockout stages. "No gimmicks just pure dancing," says the comedian after their routine, glossing over the fact that BSD's turn featured some of the hoofers waving what, from our sofas at home, looked like high-concept tea-towels (the very definition of a gimmick, Jason).
But before all that there's a melancholy opening from Ballincollig, Co Cork's Rebel Acro. They blend ballet school poise with Leeside grit (more Swan Like than Swan Lake as it were). Alas they're not quite pirouetting on all cylinders when it counts and put in a slightly overwrought shift.
They arrive wearing gold jumpsuits and waving flags as Lord of the Rings-style music burbles in the background. Technically it’s impressive aside from a slightly wobbly handstand towards the end.
Yet it is all a little unfocused with the hoofers dividing into groups, so that it’s hard to know where you are supposed to look. That said, at one point a dancer is transformed into a human skipping rope – and Sunday night TV can always do with more human skipping ropes.
“I think I’m in Vegas – and you’re from Cork,” shouts Louis Walsh, who, as we know, thinks Everything Is Fantastic. “A very minor blip but you carried on,” adds Denise van Outen.
Next it’s eventual winners BSD, with their enthusiastic ghetto grooving to Demi Lovato’s Confident.
They go all in, waving the aforementioned tea-towels over their heads and running down the steps to unnerve the judges. And because he buzzed them into the knock-outs Byrne is contractually obligated to be having the Best Time Ever. This he does, boogying madly behind his trendy glasses. Calm down Jason – there’s still an hour and a half to go!
“You get better every time you perform,” says Louis Walsh. “This is the best you’ve danced,” chimes Denise van Outen (the praise is faint in this one).
There's a weird coda, though, as presenter Lucy Kennedy pats the heads of one of the dancers during the post-performance interview, as if the poor kid was Hamish the Wonderdog in disguise. He's a child Lucy, not a cuddly toy.
The first of two Wild Cards brought back by the judges is mother and son duo Sharon and Brandon Webb, from Kildare Town. "Go on Sharon and Brandon," screams a supporter down the front in what is a lively night for the audience.
There’s a surprise as – eek – a choir materialises in the shadows (how did they get them in there without us noticing?). But the spotlight belongs to mother and son and it feels like one of the knock-outs of the evening (only it obviously isn’t as not enough people voted for them).
“I’m not going to look at you because I might cry,” says Lucy Kennedy (relax it’s a compliment). “Thanks a million … there’s no other love than the love for your mammy,” says Byrne, possibly the most Irish comment in the history of Ireland’s Got Talent.
Ancient and modern meanwhile collide in the form of Dublin’s Jake O’Shea. He starts off dancing to Little Mix in a mocked-up hair salon – and then takes a phone call from Bewitched (you’re a little frightened but just go with it).
Can it get any stranger? Well, yes, as he dances to C'est La Vie and then goes full diddly dee while his backing groovers, wearing denim Lederhosen, click their fingers. It's Riverdance if Michael Flatley was a character from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“I actually preferred last night’s routine,” says van Outen, the closest thing to a put-down all evening from the judging panel (oh how Ireland’s Got Talent cries out for a Simon Cowell-style Mr or Ms Nasty).
“You’ve got something special Jake – you’re funny, you’re a born entertainer,” says Louis Walsh. “I want something to happen for you.”
In an utterly different vein, next it’s second Wild Card act, Sea of Change. The all-female cancer survivor choir obviously come with a hugely emotive story (“there is life after cancer and we’re living proof”) and just to be here is a triumph.
But is their choice of Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves a tad on the nose? And what about the singer who takes a tumble towards the end? “I’m so proud of you ladies – it wouldn’t have been a final without you,” says van Outen. “It was much better than last week girls,” says Louis Walsh. “[It was] a lot more show, a bit like the Spice Girls,”
A rare singer in the final is Sharyn Ward, from the Traveller community in Longford. She lifts the rafters at the DCU Helix with a powerful rendering of the old standard One Starry Night ("the reason I picked it is it makes me proud to be a Traveller"). But whose idea was it to hang a huge moon behind her? It's terrifying!
"I love your tradition, your pride, your voice," says judge Michelle Visage. "You're such a lovely human. This is the first time someone has been out on their own – just your voice and your mic," assents Jason Byrne.
But before we really have a chance to bask in the glow of her performance, it’s back to the dancers, as Sligo nine-year-old Fionn McMorrow tries to go one better than his first place finish in the semi-finals.
His Billy Elliot style leaps and pirouettes have tugged at the heartstrings through the competition. He delivers a twirling, avant-garde routine to Josh William Morgan's version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
Interpretive dance from a nine-year-old isn’t what you expect from Irish telly on Sunday night. And Lucy Kennedy’s insistence speaking to him in google-woogle baby-talk will have curled toes across the nation (he’s nine Lucy, not nine months).
But McMorrow more than earns his ovation and is immediately tagged a favourite. “Just do me a favour – stop getting better and better,” wisecracks funnyman Byrne. “To all the bullies that made fun of you – they ain’t got nothing on you,” says Michelle Visage.
“You’re a fantastic little role model – 10 years time you’re going to be in the West End,” says Louis Walsh, who knows a few things about success stories from Sligo.
Last to perform are favourites Fly Youth – a 23-piece jive onslaught drawn from dancers at the FLY Dance studio in Glasnevin, Dublin. They've gone high-concept for the final, with a piece that features day-go leisure-wear and a huge rotating box.
And they’re just getting started. To the strains of Chris Brown’s Beautiful People a chap rolls on the floor while another, wearing tin-foil pants, body-pops. Then – ooh cheeky – they’re in the faces of the audience as confetti whirls and smoke spumes. Thrilling but a bit exhausting!
“You’re unbeatable … you smashed it,” says Denise van Outen.”This is the best Irish dance act I have ever, ever seen ... you’re world class,” agrees Louis Walsh, going hyperbolic for the people.
Yet his enthusiasm fails to sway the voting public, and BSD sweep to victory. As the applause rains down and the champions lift their €50,000 winner’s cheque, Virgin Media will reflect on another successful year for the franchise.
The judges, it must be said, remain a work in progress, with Jason Byrne, in particular leaning too far in to the everyman persona he appears to believe he has cultivated.
But that is of little concern to the triumphant dancers as they gaze out as the applauding crowd and it sinks in that their dreams have come true.