Late Late Eurosong special: It’s not every day you see Jedward give advice to Johnny Rotten

Eurovision 2023: The veteran pop-rock Dubliners Wild Youth edge out 19-year-old Connolly to go forward to this year’s contest in Liverpool

Eurovision 2023: Wild Youth's song We Are One marries stadium guitars with the brash, booming grooves so beloved by Eurovision audiences – and juries. Photograph: RTÉ

Wild Youth have been selected to represent Ireland in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in a nail-biting special edition of The Late Late Show (RTÉ One, Friday, 9.35pm).

The veteran pop-rock Dubliners edge out 19-year-old Jennifer Connolly, from Galway, after the two acts have been neck and neck throughout the judging process. They finally pull ahead when the public vote is announced, meaning they will be in Liverpool to perform their song We Are One in May.

We Are One blends old and new. The earnest stadium guitars carry echoes of U2 and Coldplay. This is married to the sort of brash, booming grooves so beloved by Eurovision audiences – and juries. Plus the band’s singer Conor O’Donohoe seems to be channelling Harry Styles – or Harry Styles impersonating Elvis – with his vacuum-sealed sequin jumpsuit.

For all its brashness, the song contains heartache too, with O’Donohoe writing it as a tribute to his Eurovision-loving late mother. “We’ve been around for a while. We wanted to take a risk and do this,” he says. “So many people told us we were mental.”

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Eurovision veers from ridiculous to sublime – and the Late Late has a little of both.

There’s an expert panel including the soprano Celine Byrne, the songwriter Ruth-Anne and the former Ireland Eurovision act and X Factor graduates Jedward. All have insights to share – though the sagest tips are from Jedward. They pick up on We Are One’s anthemic qualities – “U2 and Coldplay vibes” – and are gung-ho for Connolly’s Midnight Summer Night.

But the broadcast also includes moments of absurdity. There’s a weird Eurovision medley featuring a troupe of young singers, who turn Johnny Logan’s Hold Me Now into a Glee! out-take, and unleash a cannonball at Abba’s Waterloo, before Niamh Kavanagh saves the day by belting out the chorus to her 1993 Eurovision winner, In Your Eyes.

Are Wild Youth the band to reverse Ireland’s run of Eurovision losses? They are certainly keen – and if their music is as impactful as their trousers are tight, they may have a chance

Wild Youth and Connolly are the clear front-runners throughout. Among the chasing pack is John Lydon of Public Image Limited – aka the one-time punk iconoclast Johnny Rotten. His band’s track, Hawaii, is a raw-boned ballad dedicated to his wife, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. It’s the anthesis of Eurovision’s party vibes – but Lydon’s participation does deliver the once-in-a-lifetime vista of Jedward giving tips to the former frontman of the Sex Pistols.

Another thing you don’t see every day is Ireland winning Eurovision. Are Wild Youth the band to reverse that trend? They are certainly keen – and if their music is as impactful as their trousers are tight, they may have a chance.