Who’s who in Ireland’s 2014 Eurovision Song Contest semi final? Aka Can Ireland make it to the Final?

Adrian Kavanagh, posted on 21st  January 2014, with final updates posted on 3rd February 2014.

37 countries will be competing in this  year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The previous post identified the countries that Ireland’s 2014 entry will be facing in the second semi final of Eurovision Song Contest 2014 on May 8th 2014, as well as the other countries (“Big 5″/Hosts group) that will be voting in this semi final.

Figure 1: Average points awarded to Irish acts by country in all Eurovision Song Contest finals and semi finals between 1998 and 2012

Figure 1: Average points awarded to Irish acts by country in all Eurovision Song Contest finals and semi finals between 1998 and 2013

This post will look at these countries in some more detail. The good news is that, as opposed to the 2011 and 2012 draws, Ireland would seem to have a good chance of qualifying from this semi-final on the basis of the past voting history of the countries voting in this particular semi-final (see Figure 1 above), although Irish prospects are not as promising as that arising from the semi final draw accorded to us in 2013. Ireland’s semi-final qualification record compares well with most of the other countries competing in this semi -final, with some notable exceptions including Norway, Romania and Greece. 

Austria: With an on-off relationship with Eurovision over the past decade or so culminating in a break from the contest of four years ahead of the 2011 contest, Austria has only had the opportunity to vote for Ireland in Eurovision semi-finals/finals on ten occasions from 1998 onwards but have only given us a total of 16 points (out of a maximum of 144) over these years. Not great, but better than some of the other voting countries in this semi final. Only three Irish entries – Millenium of Love in 2000, Jedward’s Lipstick in the 2011 Final (winning four points in the final but no points in the semi-final!?) and Jedward’s Waterline in the 2012 Semi Final (winning eight points in the final but no points in the final!?) – have posed any interest for the Austrian voters. In this competition, the Irish act would be hoping for some points from Austria but probably not a lot of these. On the plus side, Austria’s semi-final qualification record is poor and not as good as Ireland’s. Semi Final qualification record 20%: One qualification (2011) out of five attempts (2005, 2007, 2011, 2012). Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): Not great. Their best performance came in 2003 with the novelty entry, Alf Poier’s Weil der Mensch zählt, which you may remember was on just before Mickey Joe Hart in the Riga Final. In the meantime, they’ve been out of the contest on and off for a few times but Austria did record a decent result in 2011 when Nadine Beiler made it to the Final with The Secret is Love although it only finished in 18th place in that contest (and in fairness deserved to finish much higher). This year’s entry: Conchita Wurst – song yet to be decided. If this country was an English soccer team it would be: Burnley

Slovenia: During the jury voting era of the 1990s, Slovenia was one of Ireland’s most ardent supporters in Eurovision, but this has not been the case during since the introduction of televoting in 1998. The Slovenes had the opportunity to vote for Ireland in Eurovision semi-finals/finals on eighteen occasions over the 1998-2010 period and have given us a total of 15 points (out of a maximum of 216). That’s not a great tally by any means. Jedward won one point from Slovenia in the 2011 semi-final but won no points off Slovenia in either of the 2011 or 2012 finals. Ryan Dolan also failed to win points from Slovenia in both the semi-final and final of 2013. Niamh Kavanagh got 2 points from Slovenia in the 2010 semi final (but no points in the final), as did Sinead Mulvey in the 2009 semi final, while Mickey Joe Harte (2003) and Brian Kennedy (2006 sf) won 3 points. Dawn back in 1998 is the Irish act that has won the most points (4) off Slovenia during the 1998-2012 period. So Ireland cannot expect too many points from Slovenia in this semi-final (especially with three other Former Yugoslav states to vote for in the same semi-final), but winning a small number of points at least could be a possibility, especially if it was a ballad style entry. Slovenia’s own qualification record is poor and pales in comparison with Ireland’s. Semi Final qualification record 20%: One of the decidedly unluckier Eurovision nations, Slovenia has taken part in the Eurovision semi-final each year since the system was introduced in 2004, but have been successful on just two occasions (Alenka Gotar in 2007, Maja Keuc in 2011). Slovenia usually have to live off the scraps of the Balkan bloc vote, once Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia have taken their share, and really seem to have few Eurovision friends. This means that the Slovene entries have tended to fare poorly in the last decade and largely undeservedly so – even when Slovenia made it to the Final their acts only found themselves in the lower half of the table when it came to the placings. It’s a pity as I really liked their 2011 and 2012 entries. This year’s entry: Yet to be decided If this country was an English soccer team it would be: Oldham Athletic.

Lithuania: Like Estonia and Denmark, Lithuania are also part of the Nordic voting bloc that has tended to be the most consistent supplier of Irish Eurovision points in recent years. Lithuania has had the opportunity to vote for the Irish act on fourteen occasions in Eurovision semi-finals and finals since 1998 and have awarded a total of 41 points (out of a possible total of 168). This is a relatively good record in comparison with some of the other countries voting in this semi-final (probably being only surpassed by the United Kingdom) and Ireland would be hopeful of winning some points off Vilnius in this semi-final (in fact, they would need to be winning points here). Lithuania’s semi-final qualification record was not great in the early 2000s but it has notably improved in recent years and Ireland’s record is now only slightly better than the Lithuanian one. Semi Final qualification record 56%: Lithuania have competed in each of the semi-finals since the system was introduced in 2004, with the exception of the 2007 contest: having failed to qualify in the first two years of this system, the Lithuanian record subsequently improved and they have now qualified for the final on five occasions, including the last three contests (2006, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013). Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): After a number of poor results for the country’s first four entries, Lithuania achieved its best ever result in the 2006 Final when LT United’s “novelty” entry, We Are The Winners, inexplicably finished in 6th place. After a few more poor years, Lithuania seems to have finally found its Eurovision niche in the last four/five years with almost operatic style ballad entries and has made three of the last four finals with such entries, but all of these have finished in the bottom half of the table. This year’s entry: Yet to be decidedIf this country was an English soccer team it would be: Hull City.

Belarus: Belarus joined Eurovision in 2004, but Ireland tended to avoid Belarus in most semi-final draws over recent years. Up to 2012, Ireland had never received any Eurovision points from Belarus. Belarus had the opportunity to vote for Ireland in Eurovision semi-finals/finals on eleven occasions since 2004 and have given us a total of 5 points (out of a maximum of 132) with one point going to Jedward’s Waterline in the 2012 final and four points going to Ryan Dolan in the semi-final of 2013. So it’s unlikely to be to be a case of a high points tally for Ireland from Minsk in 2014, although it could be claimed that our voting record has improved in the last two years. The Belarus semi-final qualification record is relatively poor and not as good as Ireland’s. Semi Final qualification record 30%: Belarus have competed in each of the semi-finals held between 2004 and 2013 (ten attempts) and have only qualified for the final on three occasions (2007, 2010, 2013). Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): In some ways Belarus are the eastern version of Switzerland, a country whose Eurovision results are not as good as their entries probably deserve. Their best performance came in 2007 when Koldun finished in 6th place in the Final (and probably would have been higher but for getting an early 4th place draw position in that Final). You may remember he actually appeared on The Late Late Show a few months before the contest in Belgrade. Their only other finalists were 3+2 in 2010 with Butterflies – remember the butterfly winged costumes – and Alyona Lanskaya’s Solayoh (not Solero!!!), which finished in 16th place in last year’s final. This year’s entry: TEO with Cheesecake  – …though Belarus have a record of changing their song (and sometimes their act and song after the initial selection)If this country was an English soccer team it would be: Reading.

Norway: Norway has had seventeen opportunities to vote for Irish acts across the different contests held since 1998 (in recent years the two countries seem to be avoiding each other in the semi-finals) and have awarded a total of 41 points to Ireland across these contests. While this is by no means a large number of points, Norway does compare favourably to most other Eurovision countries in terms of its support for Irish acts. But Norwegians do have a notable preference for Irish ballad entries, with most of the points Norway during the period going to Eamonn Toal, Mickey-Joe Harte, Niamh Kavanagh and Brian Kennedy while more up-tempo acts such as Jedward and Ryan Dolan failed to interest the Norweigian voters. Semi Final qualification record 71%: Five qualifications out of seven attempts (each semi-final since 2005 with the exceptions of 2006 and 2009). Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): Norway is the Eurovision country that best epitomises the idea of “meeting with Triumph and Disaster and treating those two imposters just the same”. Unlike their relatively more consistent neighbours in Denmark and Sweden, Norwegian Eurovision acts do not seem to “do mid-table finishes”! Even though the country did amass a limited number of Top 10 finishes in its first two decades and a half of Eurovision participation, Norway became famous initially as a country associated with poor Eurovision results and for nul points entries such as Jahn Teigen’s Mil Etter Mil in 1978 and Finn Kalvik’s Aldri I Livet in 1982. But Norway would achieve its first ever Eurovision victory with Bobbysocks’ Le Det Swinge in 1985, with this win being followed with another run of poor results (including another last place finish in 1990). Coinciding with the Irish period of dominance, Norway had another run of strong results in the mid-1990s, including the country’s second contest win with Secret Garden’s Nocturne. Elisabeth Andreasson of Bobbysocks fame achieved a second place for Norway behind Eimear Quinn in the following year’s contest in Oslo with I Evighet. But the yo-yo nature of Norway’s results reared its head again in the following year when, in a classic example of the “curse of last year’s hosts”, Tor Endressen’s San Francisco finished in last place with another nul points showing for Norway. The yo-yo nature of Norway’s Eurovision form has continued into the 2000s, as seen in recent years. After a fifth place finish for Maria’s Hold On Be Strong in 2008, Alexander Rybak’s Fairytale went on to comfortably win the following year’s final in Moscow, amassing a record haul of 387 points in the process. The next three years, however, have seen another run of poor Norwegian results, with a 20th place finish in the 201o Oslo Final and a last place finish in the 2012 Baku Final for Tooji’s Stay being interrupted by a failure to qualify for the 2011 Final. It was surely time again for another Norweigian success story in 2013 and Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love would bring Norway back into the Top 5 in the Malmo Final.

Finland: Finland compares well to most other Eurovision states in terms of the amount of points they tend to award, on average, to Irish acts at Eurovision. But, with the exception of Brian Kennedy in 2006 (who took 4 points from Finland both in the semi-final and final), most of the points from Finland to Ireland have been won by Jedward, with the Brother Grimes taking 10 points from Finland in the 2011 Final and 7 points and 4 points respectively in the 2012 semi-finals and Final. Ireland would be hopeful of taking some points off Finland in this semi-final (especially as most of the countries that Finland awards its highest points to will be contesting the other semi final) but by no means certain of doing so. Semi Final qualification record 56%: Five qualifications out of nine attempts (each semi-final since 2004, with exception of 2007).  Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): One win and seven other Final appearances. Much of Finland’s Eurovision history prior to 2006 was decidedly underwhelming – with no Finnish act even making it into the Top 5 during this period despite the Finns’ participation in Eurovision stretching back as far as 1961. Statistically, Finland was probably one of the weakest of the Eurovision countries during the contest’s first five decades with even highly-rated Finnish entries seeming doomed to disappointment (such as Bye Bye Baby in 1994 which was one of the favourites ahead of the Dublin Final, but finished in 22nd place in that final due to a combination of the dreaded No. 2 performance draw and some questionable costume choices. Finland’s run of poor form seemed likely to continue with the introduction of televoting and the semi-final system and indeed Finland failed to make it out of the semi-finals on their first two attempts in 2004 and 2005. Finland’s run of poor Eurovision form came to a shuddering halt, however, in 2006 when Lordi stormed to a resounding victory with Hard Rock Hallelujah. Finland’s fortunes post-Lordi have not decidedly improved on their earlier results however. Although Finnish acts have made it out of the Eurovision semi-final on four further occasions, none of these entries have made it into the Top 20 in these finals. (Finland’s best result post-Lordi was Hanna Pakarinen’s Leave Me Alone, which prequalified for the Helsinki Final in 2007 as the Host’s act and finished in 17th place in this. This year’s entry: Yet to be deciced. If this country was a soccer/Gaelic Football/hurling team it would be: Tyrone Gaelic Football team – a number of big wins for them in recent times, but some disappointing years also figuring during this period. Sense is that another big win might not be too far away.

Lithuania: Lithuania has fared strongest in Irish televoting results since the mid-2000s, with the Lithuanian emigres in Ireland proving more willing to support their home country’s entry relative to the much larger British and Polish populations living in Ireland. The level of support for Irish acts from Lithuania has not been as strong as that being offered to Lithuanian acts from Ireland, but Lithuania would still rank amongst the list of countries most likely to vote for Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest. Since the introduction of televoting in 1998, Lithuania has had thirteen opportunities to vote for Ireland in the contest and awarded Irish acts a total of 36 points across these contests. Lithuania was one of the few countries amongst the Viking/Baltic bloc not to award any points to Jedward during their 2011 and 2012 contest appearances. The most popular Irish act for Lithuanians since 1998 was the Mullans, who received the much coveted douze points from Vilnius in the 1999 Jerusalem Final (making made up exactly two-thirds of their overall number of points in that contest).  Semi Final qualification record 56%: Five qualifications out of nine attempts (each semi-final since 2004, with exception of 2007).  Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): In many ways, Lithuania’s record in recent Eurovision Song Contests is very much the mirror image of that of neighbours, Latvia. Lithuania made probably the worst ever debut of any Eurovision country in Dublin in 1994 when Ovidijus Vysniauskas’s Lopsine mylimai finished in last place with the dreaded nils points. Over the next decade, Lithuanian acts failed to improve significantly on this result, with these finishing in the lower places in the Eurovision finals or failing to qualify from the semi-finals when the semi-final system was introduced in 2004. The best Lithuanian result over this period came from Skamp (featuring Irish vocalist, Erica Jennings) whose You Got Style finished in 13th place in the 2001 Copenhagen Final. Lithuania’s run of poor Eurovision form came to an end in 2006 when LT United’s novelty entry, We Are The Winners, became the first Lithuanian song to qualify from a Eurovision semi-final and went on to finish 6th in the Athens Final. A further Lithuanian novelty entry, InCulto’s Eastern European Funk failed to qualify for the 2009 final. But since 2006 Lithuania appears to have found its own niche in the contest, with a tendency in recent years to select, almost operatic-style, ballad entries and with most of these ballads succeeding in qualifying for the final. Lithuanian ballads have qualified on three occasions over the past four years, though none of these entries have managed to eclipse We Are The Winners in terms of their results in the final and all of these have finished in the lower half of the table. The best performance in a Final by a Lithuanian entry since 2006 came in 2012 when Donny Montell’s Love Is Blind finished in 14th place in the Baku Final.  This year’s entry: Yet to be decided. If this country was a soccer/Gaelic Football/hurling team it would be: Inverness Caledonian Thistle – formerly an unfashionable lower league outfit, but achieved a surprise result a few years ago and in recent years more likely to figure amongst the teams in the top table.

Switzerland: “Don’t forget the Swiss” croaked Dustin inexpertly at the end of his risible 2008 Eurovision entry, but in fairness the Swiss have not forgotten the Irish and have tended to be one of the strongest supporters of Irish acts during the televoting era. The Swiss, however, tend to prefer traditional ballad entries and the recent, more up-tempo, entries from Ireland (from Jedward and Ryan Dolan) have failed to win any points from Switzerland over the last three years. By contrast, Niamh Kavanagh’s It’s For You took 12 points from Switzerland in the 2010 semi-final and subsequently won 6 points from the Swiss in that year’s final. Semi Final qualification record 22%: Two qualifications out of nine attempts (every semi-final since 2004 with the exception of 2006). Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): Switzerland hosted the first ever Eurovision in 1956 and were indeed the first country to win the competition with Lys Assia’s Refrain. Assia would represent Switzerland in the first three contests and achieve a second place finish two years later. These early Swiss successes would, however, never be surpassed in later years, although the country would enjoy another high profile win some three decades later. Celine Dion narrowly won the 1988 contest in Dublin with Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi, although she would go on to become one of the contest’s most commercially successful winners over the next few decades. Dion’s win marked the last Eurovision to be one by a song sung in French and as the long domination of the contest by the francophone states ebbed away in the 1990s so too has the Swiss fortunes at Eurovision. Just one Swiss act, Annie Cotton’s Moi, Tout Simplement (1993), has finished in the Top 3 in a Eurovision Final in the two and a half decades since the Dion victory. Switzerland’s poor run of form continued with the first ever Eurovision semi-final in 2004, when the Swiss act, the rather ironically titled Piero & the Music Stars, finished last with the dreaded nul points ­statistically the worst ever result in the history of the competition given that thirty three different countries were voting in this semi-final. The Swiss cunningly used geography to ensure a better result in the following year when they entered an Estonian group, Vanilla Ninja, as their act with a Ralph Siegel-penned song, Cool Vibes: a significant number of points from the Baltic states helped this strong entry to an eight place finish in the Kyiv Final. A more obvious attempt to use geography in 2006, involving a manufactured group with members from six different European countries, did not pay off however and this only earned a low placing in that final. The following years have seen the Swiss usually send strong, and often highly-rated, entries to the contest, but most of these have failed to qualify out of the semi-finals – the only exception being Anna Rossenelli’s In Love For A While in 2011, which subsequently finished in last place in the Dusseldorf Final. Unfortunately for the Swiss, the new rules of the Eurovision games benefit many countries but work against others and  Switzerland is very much in the latter category. This year’s entry: Sebalter with Hunter of Stars ­– This has the same cheery feel-good tone that last year’s entry from Malta had. But with (worse still) added whistles. I think I may grow to despise this… If this country was a soccer/Gaelic Football/hurling team it would be: Inverness Caledonian Thistle – formerly an unfashionable lower league outfit, but achieved a surprise result a few years ago and in recent years more likely to figure amongst the teams in the top table.

Macedonia: Er, probably not. Dawn did win a solid 7 points from Macedonia in the Birmingham Final in 1998 but since then there has been no Macedonian acts for any of the Irish acts that have performed at Eurovision over these fifteen years. (In fairness, FYR Macedonia is one of a handful of countries, including Montengro and San Marino, that Ireland has yet to vote for at Eurovision, so this is very much a two-way relationship, or rather non-relationship.) If Ireland does end up taking some points off the Macedonians in this year’s Final then the likelihood is that we’re in the running for a very good result in this. Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s) 50%: Five qualifications out of ten attempts (each semi-final since 2004). Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia entered Eurovision for the first time in between the first wave of new eastern and central European countries debuting in the contest in the early 1990s and the next major wave of new entrants in the early-to-mid 2000s. The first Macedonian entry missed out on the 1996 Oslo contest, having been eliminated in a prequalification process prior to the Final, and it was not until 1998 before a Macedonian act finally appeared on the Eurovision stages. The first Macedonian acts tended to occupy the lower placings in Eurovision finals but showed an impressive run of form in terms of qualifying from the Eurovision semi-finals when the stand alone semi-finals were used between 2004 and 2007. Their ability to tap into the Balkan bloc vote was key to this run of success (especially as a number of other Former Yugoslav/Balkan countries tend to have already prequalified for the final in most of these years, allowing the Macedonian acts the opportunity to win a greater share of the Balkan vote at the semi-final stage, with a number of these votes then going back to countries such as Serbia and Bosnia in the finals. As a result, none of these Macedonian acts made significant impacts on these finals and tended to finish in the mid-to-lower places in these contests. The best result for FYR Macedonia to date came in the 2006 contest, when Elena Risteska’s Ninanajna finished in twelfth place in the Athens Final. The introduction of the two semi-finals system, designed to reduce the impact of bloc voting on semi-final qualifications, brought an end to Macedonia’s run of consistent qualifications and the country was to fail to qualify from the semi-finals over the next four years. However, Kaliopi, the artist associated with the country’s 1996 entry, made a return to the contest in 2012 and was successful in qualifying from the semi-final, going on to finish in 13th place in the Baku Final. 2013 however yet again saw another non-qualification at the semi-final stage. This year’s entry: Tijana Dapčević  with Pobeda (Victory)  If this country was a soccer/Gaelic Football/hurling team it would be: Mayo Gaelic footballers – a very good record in semi-finals but not as good in finals.

Georgia: Ireland is not very likely to win points from Tblisi, as Georgia is statistically one of the least enthusiastic supporters of Irish entries out of this year’s Eurovision entrants. Georgia has yet to award any points to an Irish act at Eurovision, although – having debuted in the contest only recently and given the tendency for Georgia to end up in a different semi-final to Ireland – they have only had six opportunities to vote for Irish acts to date. Semi Final qualification record 83%: Five qualifications out of six attempts (each semi-final since 2007, with exception of 2009). Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): Georgia are one of the newer Eurovision countries, but have achieved a good level of success over this short history and even some degree of controversy. Most Georgian entries have been successful in making it out of the Eurovision semi-finals, although this run of successful qualifications did come to an end in 2012. Georgia’s entries have never been in the serious running to win any of the finals they have contested, but they usually do well enough to finish in the top half of the table. Two ninth places in Eurovision finals amount to Georgia’s best results in the contest to date (Sofia Nizharadze’s Shine in 2010 and Eldrine’s One More Day in 2011). Georgia did not participate in the 2009 contest in Moscow. Following the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008, Georgia initially announced that it would not take part in the following year’s Eurovision but later changed their mind and selected an entry, called We Don’t Wanna Put In. Featuring lines such as “We don’t wanna put in. The negative mood, it’s killing the groove. I’m a tryin’ to shoot in shoot in some disco tonight. Boogie with you”, this was viewed as being directed towards then Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin. On the basis of it breaching the rules on political content in songs, Georgia was requested to change the lyrics or change the entry. When Georgia refused to do so, they were effectively disqualified from that year’s contest. The country made a strong return to Eurovision in the following year with Sofia Nizharadze’s strong showing followed by another Top 10 finish in 2011, but Georgia were to miss out on semi-final qualification for the first time in their short Eurovision history in 2012. Georgia returned to the final in 2013, but there was a disappointing 15th place for Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani’s Waterfall.  This year’s entry: Yet to be decided If this country was a soccer/Gaelic Football/hurling team it would be: Clare camogie team – competing well at the top level in recent years but not yet seriously contending for the top honours.

Greece: Greece is statistically one of the least likely countries to vote for an Irish act at Eurovision and Greek voters have only awarded points to an Irish act (Jeward in the 2011 Final) once across the fifteen different occasions that they could have done so. Given this poor record and Greece’s very strong record in terms of Eurovision semi-final qualifications, it must be viewed as being somewhat of concern that Greece will be in a different semi-final to Ireland this year. Semi Final qualification record 100%: Seven qualifications out of seven attempts (each semi-final since 2004, with exceptions of 2005, 2006 and 2007). Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): In a similar vein to Turkey, Greece has proven to be one of the few older Eurovision countries whose fortunes in the contest improved significantly following the introduction of televoting in 1998 and especially the introduction of semi-finals in 2004. Prior to the 2000s, Greece was one of the least successful Eurovision countries with two fifth places finishes being the country’s best results in the competition in its first three decades of participation. But Antique achieved Greece’s first Top 3 finish in 2001, with a third place finish in Copenhagen, a result that was emulated by Sakis Rouvas in Istanbul in 2004, a year before Greece recorded its first Eurovision win in the 2005 Final in Kyiv when Helena Paparizou won with My Number One, while Kalomira achieved another third place finish with Secret Combination for Greece in 2008. Being able to rely on strong friends and neighbours votes from the Balkan regions and diaspora votes from western European countries with large Greek émigré populations, Greece have proved to be the most consistent of the Eurovision states in the last decade, with each of the Greek acts between 2004 and 2011 (and also in 2013) achieving a Top 10 finish and with Greece consistently qualifying from the Eurovision semi-finals on each occasion. This year’s entry: Yet to be decided If this country was a soccer/Gaelic Football/hurling team it would be: Cork ladies Gaelic football team – not a major power in previous decades but a very strong outfit on a consistent basis during the 2000s

Romania: Romania has had seventeen opportunities to vote for Irish acts across the different contests held since 1998 and the Romanians have awarded a total of 21 points to Ireland across these different contests. A good chunk of these Romanian points went to Dawn in the first contest held during this period and points from Bucharest to Ireland have been decidedly thinner on the ground in recent years. Semi Final qualification record 100%: Seven qualifications out of seven attempts (each semi-final since 2005, with the exceptions of 2006 and 2007). Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): If Malta could be viewed as the most successful country not to win Eurovision across the contest’s entire history, Romania (along with Armenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina) is probably one of the more successful of the recent entrants to the contest that are still waiting to register their first contest victory. The first few Romanian entries in the 1990s marked an inauspicious start to the country’s Eurovision career with most of these finishing in the lower places in these contests. But the rule changes brought in during the late 1990s and early 2000s benefitted Romania greatly and their prospects were greatly helped by the ability to rely on neighbourly voting from the Balkans and diaspora votes from countries such as Spain and Portugal. After two Top 10 finishes in 2002 and 2003, a poor result in the 2004 Final was followed in 2005 by the first of a consistent run of Romanian semi-final qualifications and one of the country’s best performances in the contest to date. Luminiţa Anghel & Sistem’s Let Me Try (featuring some inventive onstage engineering) won that year’s stand-alone semi-final and went on to finish in third place in the final. Another good result followed in the following year with a fourth place finish for Mihai Trăistariu’s Tornero. Since 2006, the trend has mainly been for Romanian acts to consistently qualify for the final but to usually occupy mid-to-lower table positions in these finals, with the notable exception of Paula Selling & Ovi’s Playing With Fire, which achieved a second third place finish for Romania at a Eurovision Final in the 2010 contest in Oslo.  This year’s entry: Yet to be decided If this country was a soccer/Gaelic Football/hurling team it would be: Stoke City – consistently holding their own in the top flight but not able to put in a serious challenge for the top honours.

Poland: Ireland has not won too many points off Poland since the commencement of the televoting era in 1998, even though Polish acts did very well in terms of winning support from the Irish televoters. Some Irish acts, including Brian Kennedy and Donna and Joe did win small numbers of points from the Polish televote, but no act has won points from Poland since 2009. That said, Poland did not contest the 2012 and 2013 Eurovision Song Contests.  Semi Final qualification record 14%: One qualification out of seven attempts (each semi-final since 2005 with the exceptions of 2012 and 2013). Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): Poland made a very strong Eurovision debut at The Point Theatre in Dublin in 1994, when Edyta Górniak finished in second place with To Nie Ja. This did not spark a continued run of success at Eurovision for the Polish, however. No other Polish act has come anyway close to emulating this result, with only one other act – Ich Troje with Keine Grenzen – Zadnych Granic in 2003 – succeeding in breaking into the Top 10 in a Eurovision Final since then. The 1990s had seen a series of strong and complex entries from Poland, including those from Kasia Kowalska, Justyna and Anna Maria Jopek, following on the strong 1994 result, but these proved to be too challenging for the Eurovision juries to take especial not of. The quality of the Polish entries declined, however, in the 2000s. Although there were a few near misses, with the Polish acts in 2005, 2006 and 2009 just missing out on the final, Poland has not thrived since the introduction of the semi-final system in 2004. Only one Polish act – Isis Gee in the infamous Dustin semi-final of 2008 – succeeded in qualifying for the final during this period, but she could only manage a disappointing 24th (second last) placing in that final. These results have been interspersed by periodic Polish absences from Eurovision, with the Poles not taking part in the contest between 2012 and 2013 and also missing out on the 2002 contest due to a poor result in the 2001 contest (as also the case with Ireland). This year’s entry: Yet to be decided If this country was a soccer/Gaelic Football/hurling team it would be: Blackburn Rovers – very strong performances in the mid 1990s, but fortunes have declined notably since then and struggling to make it back amongst the top tier now.

Israel: During the jury voting era leading up to 1998, Israel was statistically the least likely country to award points to Ireland. While the volume of points from Israel has not significantly proved during the televoting era, the country would now occupy a space in the middle of the rankings of countries in terms of how likely they are to vote for Irish acts. Israel was one of Niamh Kavanagh’s strongest supporters in 2010, awarding her 6 points in the Oslo final, as well as 3 points in the semi-final. Israel also awarded Jedward 7 points in the 2012 semi-final, but did not award them any points in either the 2011 or 2012 final and also failed to award any points to Ryan Dolan in the 2013 Final. Possibly another country that has more interest in Irish ballad/low tempo entries than in the more up-tempo Irish acts, although Brian Kennedy didn’t win any points from the Israeli televote in 2006. Semi Final qualification record 44%: Four qualifications out of nine attempts (each semi-final since 2004 with the exception of 2006).  Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): Like Ireland, it took Israel a relatively short period of time between joining the contest for the first time in 1973 and recording their first Eurovision win in 1978, when Izhar Cohen won the Paris Final with A-Ba-Ni-Bi. Indeed Israel did not have to wait too long for its second win in the contest, going on to win on home soil in the following year with Milk & Honey’s Hallelujah earning a narrow win over Spain in the Jerusalem Final. Although Israel would become the first country to not defend its title when it opted out of the 1980 contest due to the date of the final coinciding with its Day of Remembrance, there would be some other strong showings by Israeli acts over the following few years with second place finished being recorded in both 1982 and 1983 by Avi Toledano and Ofra Haza respectively. The country’s fortunes would be somewhat mixed over the next decade however, although Duo Datz did achieve another Top 3 finish for Israel in 1991, until Dana International achieved Israel’s third, and most recent, victory in 1998, winning the Birmingham Final with Diva. Israel’s fortunes during the 2000s have not lived up to that country’s past successes in the contest however, with most of the country’s acts achieving either low placings in the Eurovision finals or else losing out at the semi-final stage (with half of Israel’s acts losing out at this stage, including the country’s last two entries). There have however been strong results during this period for Boaz Mauda’s The Fire In Your Eyes (finishing ninth in 2009) and especially Shiri Maimon’s Haskeket Shenish’ar (finishing fourth in 2005). But Israel has not enjoyed much success in more recent years; the highly tipped Harel Skaat only finished in 14th place in 2010 Final and Israel failed to qualify for the final in 2011, 2012 and 2013. This year’s entry: Mei Feingold  – entry yet to be decided. If this country was a soccer/Gaelic Football/hurling team it would be: Liverpool – have had successes in the 1970s, 198os and 1990s, but last major victory was more than a decade ago now.

Malta: Malta has not ended up in the same semi-final as Ireland since the two semi-final system was introduced in 2008 and, as such, Malta has only had the opportunity to vote for an Irish act on fourteen different occasions since televoting was introduced in 1998. This is a pity given that Malta would be one of the most likely countries to vote for Ireland in the contest – having awarded forty four points to Irish acts across those fourteen different occasions. That said, since 2006 (when Brian Kennedy took 6 points from Malta in the semi-final and four points in the final) Jedward’s Lipstick has been the only act to win points from the Maltese televoters/jury. Semi Final qualification record 50%: Four qualifications out of eight attempts (each semi-final since 2004 with the exceptions of 2005 and 2006).  Recent Eurovision record (during 2000s): Malta could be viewed as the most successful country in Eurovision that has yet to win the contest. The small island debuted at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1971, but the first three Maltese entries (the first two of which were both sung in Maltese, with both finishing in last place in their respective contests) made little impact and there was over a decade and a half between the country’s third appearance in 1975 and its next appearance at the 1991 contest. Aided by the fact that Malta was one of a small number of countries allowed to perform in English (along with Ireland and the United Kingdom) during this period due to the native language rule, the country’s Eurovision fortunes improved decidedly on returning to the contest in 1991 and in a remarkably consistent run of strong showings only one Maltese entry would fail to reach the Top 10 between 1991 and 2002. The best results during this period came from Mary Spitieri’s Little Child in 1992 and Chiara’s The One That I Love in 1998 – both these entries achieve third place finishes and came within a handful of points of winning those contests – as well as Ira Losco’s second place finish in 2002 with Seventh Wonder. The rule changes in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including the introduction of televoting, the relaxing of the native language rule and the opening up of the contest to new entrants from eastern Europe in conjunction with the introduction of a semi-final system, would ultimately bring an end to this run of success. As opposed to Ireland and the United Kingdom, Malta did achieve some notable successes in the early years of this period including their Top 3 finishes in 1998 and 2002 and a further second place finish in the 2005 Final with Chiara’s return to the contest with Angel. Since 2005 Malta’s fortunes have declined notably and Maltese entries have struggled to qualify from the semi-final stages with only two songs making the Final over the period between 2007 and 2012. Chiara’s third appearance at Eurovision in 2009 brought about one of these qualifications but she only finished in a lowly 22nd place in that final. A similar fate met the country’s 2012 entry, when Kurt Kalleja finished in 21st place in the Baku final after having achieved Malta’s first semi-final qualification in three years.  However, Malta would reach the Top 10 in the following year’s contest with a place finish for Gianluca Bezzina with Tomorrow. A very good year in Eurovision got even better for the Maltese in December 2013, when Malta went on to win the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv.  This year’s entry: Yet to be decided If this country was a soccer/Gaelic Football/hurling team it would be: Cork City – a consistently successful outfit in the 1990s and early 2000s, but found itself languishing in the lower division in recent times although it has seen a return to form somewhat in last few years.

It is also worth taking into account the voting records of the three pre-qualified (Big 5/Host) countries who will be voting in Ireland’s semi-final.

Italy: Having stormed out of Eurovision in a huff in 1997 following a disappointing 4th place finish for the admittedly quite excellent Fiumi di Parole, the Italians were non-runners until their return to the contest in 2011 where their rather average (in my opinion) Buble pastiche bizarrely finished second in the Final, mainly thanks to a very jury votes. Mamma Mia! Italy did not have the opportunity to cast a vote for Ireland during the televoting era up to the 2011 contest; the last time that Italy would have got a chance to vote for Ireland was in the 1997 contest in Dublin when the Italian jury awarded Marc Roberts 10 points. Italy hence has only had six opportunities to vote for Ireland since the televoting era commenced in 1998 and missed out on the opportunity to award any points to Jedward both in the semi-finals and finals in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Great to have you back ragazzi… If the last three years sets the precedent, there may be niente da avere from Rome again this year. But maybe the Italians just didn’t “get” Jedward and don’t like our more up-tempo entries and the Italians may be more interested in (and may award points to) the conventional Irish ballads?

Germany: Ireland’s acts, with occasional exceptions have not scored especially well with the German voters over the past fifteen years. Jedward’s Lipstick in 2011 accounts for over two-thirds of the votes won by Ireland from Germany since the introduction of televoting in 1998, with Jedward winning eight points from Germany in both that year’s semi-final and final. Germany has only awarded eight points to Irish acts across the fourteen other opportunities that German voters have had to vote for Ireland.

United Kingdom: We finally “save all our kisses” for the country that has, by far, been Ireland’s best friend in the Eurovision song contest since the commencement of televoting in 1998. The bad news has been that, since the two semi-final system was introduced in 2008, the United Kingdom had tended to be drawn to vote in the other semi-final to the Irish one in most of these years, with the sole exception of 2010. With the exception of years in which the Irish act fared especially poorly overall (1999, 2001, 2007), Ireland had received at least 7 points each year from the United Kingdom (although they were not in a position to do in 2008 and 2009, when they could not vote in the Irish semi-final and the Irish act subsequently failed to make it the final). The only act that failed to win any points off the United Kingdom over this period was Dervish in 2007 and Irish acts earned the douze points from the United Kingdom in 2003 (Mickey Joe Harte), the 2005 semi-final (the McCauls) and the 2011 final (Jedward). The United Kingdom vote in the 2010 semi-final (the only Irish semi-final that they have voted in up to this year since the two semi system was introduced in 2008) was the difference between Niamh Kavanagh and Sweden’s Anna Bergendahl when it came to qualifying for that year’s final. Up to 2013, the United Kingdom has awarded Ireland a whopping 113 points on the fourteen different occasions that they have had the chance to vote for Irish acts in the Eurovision semi-final and final, making them true friends indeed! And making it a very, very good thing that they are voting in this semi-final! Complaints over “friends and neighbours” voting? Not here… (However, with the new system of combining televotes and jury votes, the impact of the friendly United Kingdom televote was very much blunted last year by the old-style United Kingdom jury who did not appreciate Ryan Dolan’s uptempo song and subsequently Ireland only got one point from the United Kingdom in last year’s final!)

So if past precedents are to be relied on, Ireland could be hopeful of winning relatively high numbers of Eurovision points in this semi-final from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden and Lithuania and could be hopeful of taking at least a few points from countries such as Estonia, The Netherlands, Croatia and Belgium, as well as possibly also Slovenia, Romania, Austria and Italy. By contrast, Ireland may struggle to win any points at all off most of the Former Soviet states taking part in this semi final (Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Moldova) as well as Balkan countries such as Serbia, Montenegro and Cyprus.

If we compare Ireland’s voting record in relation to the countries voting in this semi-final (across the 1998-2013 period) against that of the other fifteen countries that are competing in this, the following result would be predicted for this semi final: 1. Greece 127, 2. Norway 106, 3j. Malta/Romania 97, 5. Israel 75, 6. Lithuania 73, 7j. Georgia/Finland 68, 9. Poland 66, 10. Belarus 58, 11. Ireland 56, 12. Switzerland 44, 13. Austria 43, 14j. FYR Macedonia/Slovenia 33.  This has Ireland as just missing out on being one of the ten countries predicted to qualify from this semi-final, but the margins involved are quite tight and there are relatively few points separating Ireland and the countries just falling inside the Top 10, namely Belarus (2 points), Poland (10 points) and Georgia/Finland (12 points). While the analysis suggests that Greece, Norway, Malta and Romania are relatively safe bets to make it to the final, the same cannot be argued in relation to the countries found in the 4th-10th berths of the predicted Top 10 here!

(Carrying out a similar analysis for the other semi-final leads to the following results being predicted for Semi Final 1: 1j. Azerbaijan/Russia/Sweden 119, 4. Ukraine 105, 5. Armenia 83, 6. Iceland 75, 7. Moldova 63, 8. Estonia 61, 9. San Marino 58, 10. Hungary 50, 11. Albania 48, 12. Belgium 47, 13. The Netherlands 45, 14. Portugal 44, 15. Latvia 37, 16. Montenegro 29. On the basis of this analysis, Russia, Azerbaijan, Sweden (though the “curse of last year’s hosts” may yet figure!), Ukraine, Armenia and possibly also Iceland would look like safe bets to make it to the final, but there is only a wafer-thin margin separating the other countries in this Top 10 with those just falling immediately outside of this. )

In terms of semi-final qualification record, Ireland has taken part in eight Eurovision semi-finals since the system was introduced in 2004: Ireland pre-qualified for the finals in 2004 and 2007 having finished in the Top 10 (excluding the Big 4/5 countries) in the previous years. The Irish record was relatively poor in the country’s early semi-final appearances, but the Irish record has improved significantly in more recent times with the Irish act making it to the final on the country’s last four attempts. Semi Final qualification record 62%: Ireland has qualified from the semi-finals on five occasions from eight attempts (qualifying in 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and missing out in 2005, 2008 and 2009). This means Ireland ranks behind Greece (100%), Romania (100%), Georgia (83%) and Norway (71%) in terms of semi-final qualification. But Ireland, on the exact same basis, ranks ahead of the other ten countries in the semi-final, including Lithuania (56%), Finland (56%), Macedonia (50%), Malta (50%), Israel (44%), Belarus (30%), Switzerland (22%), Slovenia (20%), Austria (20%) and Poland (14%).

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One Response to “Who’s who in Ireland’s 2014 Eurovision Song Contest semi final? Aka Can Ireland make it to the Final?”

  1. Deven O'Kearney Says:

    If Ireland sends an excellent song with an outstanding singer, we would have a great chance of qualifying yet again because of the following factors:

    1. The UK is voting in this semi final.
    2. There are only 14 countries participating in semi final 2.
    3. There are some relatively weak songs in semi final 2 (EG: Belarus)
    4. Countries such as Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan are participating in semi final 1.
    5. We are in the second half of the second semi final. That way we will attract more votes from the countries who are voting.

    Not to get anyone’s hopes up, but with the right song and artist we might make the final as we have done every year since 2009.

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