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Beyond the wins: 10 lesser-known facts from Ireland's Eurovision history

16 March 2024 at 12:30 CET
Jedward have represented Ireland twice at Eurovision, in 2011 and 2012
Alongside its 7 victories, Ireland's history at the Eurovision Song Contest is a vibrantly colourful one, with more than just plentiful shades of green! We pick through some of the lesser-known lore from Ireland's participation past.
Ireland’s Brooke in the green room at the Second Semi-Final, Turin 2022 EBU/Sarah Louise Bennett

The record number of wins, Riverdance, All Kinds of Everything, the '90s, Johnny Logan's double win, The Voice, the back to back ballad bonanza of Linda Martin and Niamh Kavanagh, the 4 victories in 5 years, the Rock n' Roll Kids...

Ireland's highs at the Eurovision Song Contest are widely spoken of, they are impressive and they are in abundance. But there is so much more to Ireland’s Eurovision history than them simply being... well, the all-time best at the game, alongside Sweden.

In honour of St. Patrick's Day weekend, we're casting an emerald-hued spotlight over the more niche nuggets of wisdom surrounding Ireland's long history at the Eurovision Song Contest.

As we wait to watch Ireland's Bambie Thug cast their spell over Malmö in May with Doomsday Blue, join us on a deeper dive into the Celtic connection to the Eurovision Song Contest.

1. Chance of a Lifetime

We all know that the original Derry Girl Dana brought Ireland its first Eurovision victory in 1970 with the endlessly endearing All Kinds Of Everything. But that winning combo might never have happened had things gone a little differently for Dana one year earlier.

At the 1969 Irish pre-selection, Dana competed with the song Look Around, and very nearly got to represent Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest in Madrid. But in the end, Dana finished in 2nd place, to Muriel Day's The Wages Of Love.

Muriel Day was the first female artist to represent Ireland at the Contest

That 1969 national final ended up being something of an 'Allstars' of Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest. Not only did the competition have 1970's Eurovision artist Dana competing (as well as 1969's act Muriel Day, of course), but it also had the performers who represented Ireland at the Contest in 1968 (Pat McGeegan), 1967 (Sean Dunphy), 1966 (Dickie Rock) and 1965 (Butch Moore). 

That's Ireland's first 6 Eurovision acts all competing against each other in one pre-selection. Europe, let's bring this level of extra back for the 2025 national final season, please!

Dana brought Ireland its first Eurovision win in 1970

2. Dying To Try

The Eurovision Song Contest clearly left a big impression on Ronan Keating after he hosted the event in 1997 with Carrie Crowley. One year later, as a songwriter he entered Make That Change into the Irish pre-selection for the 1998 Contest, performed by a Louis Walsh-managed set of twins. 

No, not Jedward. Back then, it was the Carter Twins!

The song finished in 4th place, and so ultimately didn't make it to Birmingham. But Ronan Keating did get to have his songwriter moment at the Eurovision Song Contest just over a decade later...

In 2009, he co-penned Believe Again by Brinck, which represented Denmark in Moscow. At Denmark's Melodi Grand Prix that year, Ronan's song had triumphed over runner-up Someday - performed by Malmö 2024's own Hera Björk!

3. Playing With Numbers

In case you weren't already impressed enough with Ireland's track record at the Eurovision Song Contest, then the knowledge that the country has never received the infamous 'nul points' should seal the deal.

The lowest score that Ireland has ever finished on is 5 points, which happened to the Irish twice - on the only two occasions that they've finished in last place in a Grand Final (in 2007 with Can't Stop The Spring and in 2013 with Only Love Survives). 

Ireland has also twice finished last in a Semi-Final, in 2019 with 22 and in 2021 with Maps.

Lesley Roy, Ireland, First Semi-Final, Rotterdam Ahoy, 18 May 2021 EBU / Andres Putting

4. If I Could Choose

In 2016, when RTÉ presented Sunlight by Nicky Byrne as Ireland’s entry for Stockholm, it was the first time in the country’s then 50-year history of participating at the Eurovision Song Contest that the broadcaster had gone with an internal selection.

Up until that point, a national selection format had always been used, in various different guises down through the decades.

RTÉ continued with the internal selection method for 5 more years, before reverting back to a pre-selection in 2022.  

5. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Throughout Ireland's lengthy Eurovision history (in 2025, it celebrates the 60th anniversary of its first participation), you'd think that its run of entries would have plenty of Irish-language ditties and delights dotted amongst it. But no, just one sole time has an Emerald Isle Eurovision entry been performed in Irish. That was in 1972, when Sandie Jones performed Ceol an Ghrá (Music of Love), which finished in 15th place in Edinburgh.

There have been plenty of attempts to bring the language back to the Contest however, through Ireland's national finals down through the decades. This very nearly happened most recently in 2024, when Ailsha's Go Tobann finished runner-up to Bambie Thug's Doomsday Blue at The Late Late Show Eurosong Special.

6. Irelande Douze Pointe

It's Dublin boys Jedward that have given Ireland its best result at the Eurovision Song Contest over the past two decades, thanks to the 8th place finish that Lipstick achieved in Düsseldorf. But did you know that the song went on to live a very different life after the Contest?

Jedward at the the Grand Final at Liverpool Arena
Chloe Hashemi / EBU

One year later, Jedward refashioned their Eurovision hit into Put The Green Cape On, to support Ireland's efforts in the UEFA Euro 2012 championship. With new lyrics to encourage 'the boys in green' to victory in the football, the single's release also donated all proceeds to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. 

The music video featured some of Ireland's more niche pop-culture contributions to the rest of the world, such as Mrs Brown from Mrs Brown's Boys, TV hosts and popstars Zig & Zag, and Eurovision's very own Dustin the Turkey. 

7. Story Of My Life

One of Ireland's most iconic entries from its early years at the Eurovision Song Contest is the effortlessly catchy Cross Your Heart by Tine Reynolds. But Tina had a somewhat rocky journey to Eurovision before arriving to Brighton in 1974 to compete against the likes of ABBA and Olivia Newton-John. 

One year earlier, while rehearsals for the 1973 Contest were well underway, RTÉ had flown Tina out to Luxembourg to replace Ireland's artist that year, Maxi, who had stood her ground in a disagreement against the broadcaster in how the song should be performed, insisting she therefore wouldn't be singing it.

On the night, however, Maxi did go out on stage to perform Do I Dream?. To make it up to Tina, RTÉ promised the singer the opportunity to represent Ireland at the 1974 Contest. And so the following year, for the very first time, the broadcaster staged a national final built around just one artist. Tina performed 8 songs, with Cross Your Heart winning by a landslide. 

8. Somewhere In Europe

In 2023, Ireland had to start sharing its record for most Eurovision victories, following Sweden's 7th win in Liverpool. But one list the Irish will most likely continue to top for quite some time is the league table of Host Cities.

The country's capital, Dublin, has hosted the Eurovision Song Contest on 6 of the 7 occasions that it has been held in Ireland. Next down the list is London, which has hosted 4 times, and then Copenhagen, currently with 3 Contests to its name. 

Dublin's Gaeity Theatre got given the honour first in 1971, followed by the RDS in 1981 and 1988, as a result of Johnny Logan's two victories. The Point Theatre then hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994, 1995 and 1997. And the one time it didn't go to Dublin, in 1993, the Contest came to us from Millstreet in Cork. 

Ireland last hosted the Contest in 1997

9. Do I Dream?

At the 2023 Contest in Liverpool, Ireland was almost represented by the Sex Pistols' frontman John Lydon, who performed the song Hawaii at the Irish pre-selection, with his band Public Image Ltd. 

Other celebs to have competed in Irish national finals in recent years without taking the win are Boyzone's Mikey Graham, X Factor's Eoghan Quigg, and TV chef and cookbook bestseller Donal Skehan. 

Double Cross My Heart I can show you how to cook

Since penning Double Cross My Heart for Donal at the 2008 Irish pre-selection, songwriter Oscar Görres has been doing rather well for himself. In the past two years alone, he's written megahits such as One Of Your Girls with Troye Sivan, 2 Die 4 with Tove Lo, and Supernatural with Ariana Grande which, at the time of writing, is sitting pretty in the upper echelons of the Global Top 50 chart on Spotify. 

The lesson to be learned here: finishing in 5th place to a Dustin the Turkey win needn't hold you back from achieving your dreams, folks. 

10. That's What Friends Are For

Quite rightly, much has been made of the 4 victories in 5 years that Ireland achieved at the Eurovision Song Contest in the '90s. But even in that odd year out, when Norway scored the win in 1995, Ireland had a big part to play in the winning song.

Nocturne was performed by the duo Secret Garden, comprised of Norwegian musician Rolf Løvland and Irish talent Fionnuala Sherry, whose violin intermezzo performance took centre stage at the Point Theatre in Dublin for the majority of the song.

As well as being Norway's second victory at the Contest, it was also the aforementioned Rolf's second win, too. In 1985, he had been the composer behind La Det Swinge by Bobbysocks, which gave both Norway and Rolf their first Eurovision win in Gothenburg.