IRELAND HAVE SURPRISED everyone – and most of all ourselves – by qualifying for the Eurovision final on Saturday.
To do that, Ryan Dolan – a nice young lad from Strabane – had to do valiant battle with the 15 other acts hoping to make it through. Here’s how it went down.
19:53 – 19.53 – Hello everyone! Hope you’re sitting comfortably.
The TV broadcast will be under way in a couple of minutes, just as soon as the judges have finished eviscerating people on Masterchef. So while we’re waiting let’s have a look at what our man has to offer, will we?
Here’s the official version:
19:57 – 19.57 – Tonight’s result will be determined half by televoting, and half by national ‘expert’ juries. The juries have already seen the acts (last night) and doled out their scores. But we won’t know what they are until later, when they’re combined with the televoting results.
Is your head hurting yet?
20:02 – 20.02 – The bad news is that Ireland isn’t really fancied to win this first semi-final – we’re at 16/1 with the bookies, up against Denmark, who are 6/4 favourites to win the whole gosh-darn thing (according to Boylesports).
The good news is that there are some other songs which are fancied way, way less. So hopefully we might sneak through and reclaim SOME of the glory of the Johnny Logan days. (That’s J-Lo to you.)
20:05 – 20.05 – IT BEGINS. And we’re already being treated to an interminable montage of Sweden. Including the bridge to Denmark where a gruesome murder takes place in TV’s The Bridge. So, that’s a good omen right?
20:06 – 20.06 – Did you want to hear last year’s winner again? Good, because here it is. With a children’s choir, and a bonkers-looking lady in a red dress, and all.
She’s mingling with the crowd, who are all waving little lights. Is it too early to start crying?
20:08 – 20.08 – For anyone wondering how to pronounce Malmö, we just got a lesson from the presenter. It’s “Mal-myeurgh.”
20:10 – 20.10 – The presenter is explaining the voting rules, which are basically this: Don’t bother until it’s all over. Meanwhile, Marty Whelan is doing a little riffing. Good old Marty.
Earlier today he told the Irish Independent about the pain of Ireland getting nul points. “It still hurts – we take it very personally,” he said.
It’s alright, Marty. There, there.
20:12 – 20.12 – And first up is Austria’s Natalia Kelly with Shine.
She’s gone for a restrained staging, with only her glittering silver trousers to keep us entertained. Frankly, this is not what we need to get us going. STEP IT UP, AUSTRIA.
20:13 – 20.13 – While Austria are boring us into oblivion, Frances Byrne has a question:
YES. God yes. We’d like wine. Can someone bring us some wine?
20:14 – 20.14 – There is a note of despair in Marty Whelan’s voice as he contemplates sitting through the next 16 acts.
20:17 – 20.17 – Next up is Birgit from Estonia, who according to her montage spends most of her time lounging around in swimming pools.
OK, it’s just a ballad. But she wins points for starting off in black and white, and making us wonder if there was something wrong with our TV.
20:18 – 20.18 – Fiona has some tough love for Birgit:
I’m with Fiona. Although she did just kick things up with an epic high note. Nice try, Estonia.
20:21 – 20.21 – There’s Marty introducing Slovenia’s Straight Into Love. The way he did it, you just know he’s said the words “straight into love” before. In a commanding tone.
When it comes to love, Marty will brook no delay.
20:22 – 20.22 – There’s dubstep! There are dancers in Daft Punk visors! One of them just jumped over another one! The singer is yelling at the top of her voice!
This is more like it.
20:27 – 20.27 – Croatia just happened everyone. It was pretty boring, and could not even be livened up by men in gold-embroidered costumes.
That would have been a good time to visit the bathroom, FYI.
20:30 – 20.30 – And now, the favourite Denmark. They’re getting a big reaction from the crowd, who have probably popped over from just across the water in Copenhagen.
Emmelie de Forest has got drummers AND a rain-of-fire effect. It’s a decent effort. She looks like she’s trying. But the favourite? I dunno.
20:32 – 20.32 – While we’re on a break (WE WERE ON A BREAK), do you want a sneak peek at what Ryan’s got in store for us?
Here’s his dress rehearsal:
20:34 – 20.34 – We’re having a bit of bother getting the RTÉ live stream to work, and Frank has emailed from France to say the same. Is anyone else having problems?
Anyway, here’s an alternative stream from the Eurovision official site: http://www.eurovision.tv/page/webtv?program=83873
20:36 – 20.36 – Now Russia, who have dispatched Dina Garipova to sing What If.
She’s taken a few lessons from Westlife and banged a euphoric key change into the middle of her song. If she had a stool, she’d be right off it by now.
20:40 – 20.40 – Ukraine’s entry is called Gravity. Ooh, I like this one. It’s got some pretty good strings going on in the backing track. And she’s totally standing on a rock in the middle of a steamy ocean.
Also, she was delivered onto the stage by a tall man in a leather jacket. Yep, Ukraine is getting our vote so far.
20:42 – 20.42 – Marty Whelan is saying scathingly that the Netherlands have failed to qualify for the final since 2004. But let’s face it – they didn’t send Jedward and a turkey, did they?
People in glass houses, Marty. People in glass houses.
20:44 – 20.44 – That said, I don’t know if the Netherlands are going to be breaking their losing streak this year, to be honest.
20:45 – 20.45 – “It’s just very unusual,” says Marty about the Netherland’s song. Sort of in the same tone of voice your mam would use to say “Well, it’s different, isn’t it?” when she’s trying to be kind about your new jacket that she hates.
20:46 – 20.46 – WHOA, what’s happening. The camera is going CRAZY and there are dudes in space suits rapping. Montenegro IN THE HOUSE.
For anyone without access to a telly, this is what Montenegro’s culture looks like:
20:52 – 20.52 – Lithuania’s Andrius Pojavis wins best lyric of the contest so far:
Because of my shoes I’m wearing today
One is called Love, the other is Pain.
This guy is so into this thing, he has NAMED HIS SHOES. Respect.
20:53 – 20.53 – “He lived in Ireland for a year,” explains Marty of Lithuania’s entry. “Do you recognise him?”
What a pro.
20:56 – 20.56 – Belarus have gone for the time-honoured trick of getting a young lady to wear nothing except tassels. Hey, it’s worked before.
Sadly, the song is quite boring. It’s kind of like if Ricky Martin went to Belarus and wrote a Latin Fiesta Song, but his heart wasn’t really in it.
20:57 – 20.57 – We missed this sharp observation from Rachel in the comments:
Fair play to Commander Hadfield. Sure he’s only just back from space, and already pitching in.
20:58 – 20.58 – Ireland are up next, as Marty has just told us approximately 15 times. But first, Moldova.
Eurovision: The World’s Longest Geography Lesson.™
20:59 – 20.59 – Re: Moldova, we can’t do better than this:
21:00 – 21.00 – AND IT’S IRELAND.
Hold us now.
21:01 – 21.01 – But first, a montage of Ryan Dolan in Strabane looking miserable under grey skies with his hood up.
The tension is killing us.
21:03 – 21.03 – Ryan’s putting in a solid-as-a-rock performance. There are men in tattoos banging drums. And the song even has a bit of life in it. Good man Ryan.
WILL IT HAVE A KEY CHANGE? Only time will tell.
21:03 – 21.03 – Ryan is very tanned. That didn’t happen in Strabane, let me tell you. Or if it did it was in Chartbusters.
21:07 – 21.07 – No key change, but frankly I think we’ve done pretty well there. And not just because it wasn’t Jedward.
To be honest though, if it WAS our last night alive like Ryan says, we’d probably listen to something else. Maybe a cheerful bit of Harry Belafonte or something.
21:10 – 21.10 – Now, Despina Olympiou for Cyprus.
Right now, a million men around Europe are asking themselves whether she’s REALLY in the nip under her lacy dress.
Do you want that to be your legacy, Despina? Do you? Then why didn’t you make your song more interesting?
21:11 – 21.11 – Respected economist Constantin Gurdgiev weighs in:
But where are you on the lacy dress/in the nip issue, Constantin?
21:12 – 21.12 – We’re now up to our second-last song of the night. And Belgium appear to have yanked a schoolboy off the street on the way to his debs.
Hang on, no, it’s their entry Roberto Bellarosa.
21:14 – 21.14 – LOVE KILLS OVER AND OVER, he keeps saying. Except because of his accent, it sounds like “love keels over and over”. Sort of as if love is just passing out drunk, again and again.
21:16 – 21.16 – Now Serbia, whose entry Moje 3 are up on a rooftop letting off a fire extinguisher.
They wouldn’t get away with that kind of carry-on around here, let me tell you. The Garda helicopter would be scrambled before you can say “Liberty Hall.”
21:18 – 21.18 – These girls are great. They appear to be dressed as cartoon characters, are making stern faces at each other, and at least one of them is wearing Obelix tights.
I KNEW Obelix tights were going to come into fashion. Who’s laughing now, eh?
21:19 – 21.19 – More from Constantin:
There’s economic thinking for you.
21:20 – 21.20 – Am I the only one who finds the Swedish presenter a bit terrifying?
She looks like she would smell overpoweringly of cigarette smoke and Haribo.
21:22 – 21.22 – The voting is now OPEN. Which actually isn’t that exciting, because as Marty is explaining, you can’t vote for Ireland.
Marty suggests that we hit the phones, call all our friends around Europe and ask them to ring up and vote for Ireland instead. Alright Marty, take it easy. It’s only a competition.
21:25 – 21.25 – While Marty is desperately trying to think of things to say during the interminable recap montage, let’s take a look at this photo of him giving the “secret finger”:
Marty gives no f***s.
21:29 – 21.29 – WHOA, the Swedish presenter is on some kind of mobility scooter. That doesn’t make her any less scary.
Her accent is crazy. It’s like Mary Poppins meets Baron von Richthoven.
21:31 – 21.31 – Ah here, ANOTHER recap montage?
There’s only one thing for it:
21:35 – 21.35 – So what are we thinking of tonight’s performances? A strong showing from Ireland, definitely. But other than that I like Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine.
The Boylesports odds tell me that Montenegro are a long, long shot at 125/1. Frankly, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t vote for rapping spacemen. But that’s just me.
21:37 – 21.37 – “Ah, that’s your lot,” says Marty with relief in his voice as the montage ends. We feel you, Marty. We feel you.
21:39 – 21.39 – The voting has closed, so we’re now watching the bizarre dance performance that has to tide us over while minions frantically scurry around calculating the results.
“Now, settle back and enjoy this,” says Marty reassuringly. We’re guessing this means he’s legging it to the jacks.
21:40 – 21.40 – MAMMY ALERT.
21:43 – 21.43 – The presenter is back, and wearing a new dress. “Now is the perfect time for you to get to know our country a little bit better,” she says, gently breaking the news that they haven’t sorted out the results yet.
21:44 – 21.44 – The latest delaying tactic is a “comedy” sketch in which a Swedish artist dressed up in wacky clothes as “European Broadcasting Union spokesperson Linda Woodruff” pretends to tour the country.
If you aren’t watching, then… just thank God, that’s all.
21:47 – 21.47 – We appear to be in the middle of another montage. I’ll be honest: I don’t even know what this one is for.
21:49 – 21.49 – The votes have been counted, the presenter tells us in her Poppins-meets-Richthofen voice. “This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for.”
There is a cruel glint in her eye.
21:50 – 21.50 – Pretty sure someone from the crowd just cried out in pain.
21:50 – 21.50 – Ireland are through!
21:51 – 21.51 – “Embrace me someone, will you quickly,” says Marty in celebration. What did we tell you? He’s got a voice of authority.
21:53 – 21.53 – Everyone’s rooting for the Montenegran spacemen, right?
21:54 – 21.54 – As well as Ireland, the other qualifiers are: Moldova, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Denmark, Russia, Belgium and the Netherlands.
21:58 – 21.58 – I’m going to be honest: I’m pretty broken up about the Montenegrans. If the Eurovision doesn’t stand for rapping spacemen, then what DOES it stand for?
But I’m going to take a leaf out of Marty’s book, and remain stoic. Marty wouldn’t let news like this break him. He’d just give the secret finger to the organisers.
22:00 – 22.00 – The presenter is warning us in threatening tones that she’ll “be back” for the second semi-final on Thursday – so that’s our lot for tonight.
We’ll be back on Thursday too, when my esteemed colleague Louise McSharry will be taking over liveblogging duties for the next 16 countries. Godspeed, Louise.
Thanks for all your (hilarious!) comments, tweets and emails. They helped me through this thing. See you Thursday!