One step forward and two steps back – this appears to be the Irish broadcaster, RTE’s strategy when it comes to Eurovision. After making the final in 2018 for the first time in 5 years with Ryan O’Shaughnessy, there was a high sense of expectation that RTE were back on track.
In October 2018, RTE opened up their song submission calling upon “accomplished songwriters and performers” to submit songs for Eurovision 2019. Everything went quiet in the following months but, in typical Eurovision fashion, the rumour mill went into overdrive. First up was a report in the Irish Mirror newspaper in January 2019 with speculation that Niall Horan of One Direction fame had been selected to represent Ireland. RTE didn’t confirm nor deny the rumour with the Head of Delegation, Michael Kealy saying “at the moment we are still going through the 430 songs we received, so it’s a bit early to rule anything in or out definitively”. As it turned out, the article in the Irish Mirror was fake. Several other rumours popped up over the course of the following months with names such as Una Healy, Janet Devlin, Aimee Fitzpatrick and the perennial rumour of Samantha Mumba thrown into the mix.
On 8th March 2019, RTE finally confirmed the artist who would represent Ireland. Sarah McTernan had been chosen and will sing the song “22” in Tel Aviv.
Whilst Sarah may not be widely known she does have a previous connection to Eurovision. In 2018 she submitted a song to San Marino’s online selection “1 in 360”. Her entry was a cover of an entry by Karlotta Sigurðardóttir called “Eye of the Storm” in Iceland’s 2016 Söngvakeppnin. Unfortunately, Sarah did not make the next stage of the San Marino selection.
She also appeared on The Voice of Ireland in 2015, finishing in third place. The Head of Delegation for Ireland, Michael Kealy said “Sarah has an amazing voice which stood out the minute I heard it and she fits perfectly with our chosen song”
The song is called “22” and was written by Dutch songwriters Janieck, Marcia “Misha” Sondeijker and Roulsen. “22” is about a ex-boyfriend of Sarah’s – the “one that got away”. The number refers to his house “number 22”.
Ireland perform in the second semi-final in May and face stiff competition from regular qualifiers such as Sweden, Norway, Russia and Azerbaijan. Similar to last year, the staging will be key. If they manage to get it right, hopefully Ireland can qualify for the final again and it does end up being another step forward for RTE. Time will tell.