Ireland’s Eurovision 2018 Semi Final Draw: “A lot done, more to do…”

Adrian Kavanagh, 29th January 2018

So, from the perspective of Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for the 2018 Final, how good was today’s Eurovision semi-final allocation draw in Lisbon? The initial reaction was very positive, especially given that the United Kingdom was drawn to vote in the semi-final that Ireland is performing in. But was it really that good? It’s time to unpick the 2018 Semi Final draw, especially with reference to the potential selections that I had earlier identified as Ireland’s dream draw and night draw, as I discussed in greater detail in the previous post.

Semi Final Allocation: First of all, the actual semi final allocation. Since the introduction of the two-semi finals system in 2008 (the year of Dustin the Turkey…brrr), Ireland has tended to be drawn in the second of the two semi finals, but not this year. On the basis that Semi Final 1 has the largest number of countries (19, as opposed to 18 in Semi Final 2), getting drawn in this semi final may have been viewed as disappointing for Ireland. (In short, simply on the basis of the numbers competing in both semi finals, Ireland’s chances of qualifying falls from 55.6% (for Semi Final 2) to 52.6% (for Semi Final 1).)  But the Big 5/Host voting allocations changed that perspective dramatically.

On the plus side here, Ireland were drawn to perform in the second half of this semi-final. But, ultimately, the decision on Ireland’s specific position in the running order will dictate just how big a boost this draw is for the Irish act – Ireland could end up in the last three positions in the running order (the running order positions we got across the last three Eurovision Song Contests – 2011, 2012 and 2013 – that we succeeded in qualifying for the Final) or effectively get a relatively similar running order position to the one that Brendan Murray was allocated at the second semi-final in 2017.

Big 5/Host Countries: Ireland really lucked out in this regard. Based on the previous voting patterns, Ireland really…really wanted to see the United Kingdom being drawn to vote in our semi-final and really also wanted Portugal to be drawn to vote in this semi final too, while we wanted to avoid Italy and France. And we got all of this in this semi final allocation draw. True, Germany might have been slightly preferred to Spain in terms of the third Big 5/Host country we wanted drawn to vote in our semi final, but really it’s probably apples and oranges in terms of these two countries, so it’s not the end of the world to have got Spain, instead of Germany.


The bold indicates aspects of the “dream” draw that Ireland actually got in the real draw – the red indicates aspects that Ireland didn’t get

The Former Yugoslav Pot: Ideally we would have preferred to have been drawn with only three countries from this bloc and not four, but generally Ireland did quite well in terms of the countries that were drawn to also perform in Semi Final 1. The big bonus here was probably avoiding Serbia – low number usually from the Serb televoters, but Serbia also has a very good qualification record – but the three “dream draws” – Croatia, Albania and Switzerland – also ended up in Semi Final 1. The only fly in the ointment here was the fact that the fourth country from this pot to get drawn to perform in Semi Final 1 was FYR Macedonia, and not Slovenia.

The Viking Pot: Ireland could only get drawn with two countries from this pot. One of the two dream draws that Ireland would have hoped to have received here was Finland and they were drawn to perform in this semi-final, but not Denmark, the other “dream draw country”. On the plus side, Ireland avoided being drawn with regular semi-final qualifiers, Sweden and Norway. Iceland is the “least generous” of the countries in this pot towards Irish Eurovision acts, but their recent qualification record has been poor, so getting drawn in the same semi-final as Iceland is not, on that basis, a disaster by any means.

The Former Soviet Pot: No country from this pot was going to amount to a great draw for Ireland. On the whole, getting drawn with Belarus can be seen as a positive. Ireland got drawn with two of the regular semi-final qualifiers in this pot – Armenia and Azerbaijan – but avoided the other two regular semi-final qualifiers – Russia and Ukraine. So Ireland could have done worse in terms of the countries that were drawn from this pot to perform in our semi-final (Semi Final 1).


The bold indicates aspects of the “dream” draw that Ireland actually got in the real draw – the red indicates aspects that Ireland didn’t get

The Other Balkans/Central European Pot: This was frankly pretty disappointing from an Irish perspective. Given their qualification record and Greek televoters’ antipathy towards Irish Eurovision acts, the one country Ireland wanted to avoid here was Greece, but Greece will indeed perform in Semi Final 1. To make matters worse, the fact that Cyprus was also drawn to perform in Semi Final 1 probably guarantees both countries between 20-24 televote/jury vote points from the get go. Given their strong performances/places in the last two contests (and their televoters’ antipathy towards Irish Eurovision acts), we also wanted to avoid Bulgaria here, but again more bad news on the front – Bulgaria will perform in Semi Final 1 too.

South European/Central European (…and Australia) Pot: Another bad run of luck for Ireland here. Actually an even worse draw that that associated with the previous pot. We got none of our three “dream draw” countries here and instead got drawn in the same semi-final with the three countries that we didn’t want to get drawn with!!! Aaargh!

Benelux-Baltic Pot: This was not bad, by any means, for Ireland. The big bonus here was getting drawn in the same semi-final as two of the Baltic states – Lithuania and Estonia – although Latvia would have been the best state to have been drawn with out of the these three states and they will instead perform/vote in Semi Final 2. Avoiding Poland – the least generous country in this pot towards Ireland’s Eurovision act and regular qualifiers since their return to Eurovision in 2014 – has to be looked on as a bonus. The same rule applies to The Netherlands, given their strong run of form in the contest since 2013 and given that Waylon, who was part of the duo that finished in second place in 2014, will be their act this year. Getting drawn with Belgium is not an especially bad draw, given that the Belgian televoters are relatively generous towards Ireland, although it’s not an especially great draw either, given that Belgium have finished in the Top 10 in the last the Eurovision Finals and have been relatively regular qualifiers from the Eurovision semi-finals during the 2010s.



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