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Last year she narrowly missed the chance to sing at Junior Eurovision, finishing as runner-up at Ireland’s national selection.

But on Sunday evening  Zena Donnelly proved she didn’t get bitter — she just got better — by winning Junior Eurovision Eire 2016.

Looking edgy and fashion forward, the 14-year-old starlet delivered a stirring performance of her song “Bríce Ar Bhríce”, which moves from ballad to pop-folk ditty. The overall feeling is one of optimism and hope — feelings that always go down well at a kids singing contest.

https://youtu.be/xXmWz56RIzE

Zena, who beat out stiff competition from fellow finalists and Junior Eurovision hopefuls Walter McCabe, Hannah McNicholas Roche, Cliona Nic Dhomhnaill, Lasairfhiona de Brun and Amy McGrath, was selected by a panel of music professionals.

They were permanent jury members Fiachna Ó Braonáin (of the Irish band Hothouse Flowers) and Pauline Scanlon (a singer of contemporary and traditional Irish music). And special guest judge and Eurovision 1992 winner Linda Martin.

While the Irish-language element obviously gives this local flavour, the jury went for a poppier sound than in 2015, when they chose the operatic entry “Réalta na Mara” from Aimee Banks.

Zena may be young but she isn’t inexperienced. The rising star performed a solo at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Royal Gala Performance, and she even sang with the late and great Whitney Houston in Dublin’s 3Arena.

Her impromptu performance with Whitney is beyond amazing, and you need to watch it right now. Clearly taken aback by Zena, Whitney steps back and laughs and just enjoys the show. The performance demonstrates just how strong and brave this young lass was even then. Despite turning red and standing next to one of the world’s greats, she takes her moment and runs with it. Zena, Warrior Princess!

What do you think of tonight’s decision? Was Zena the right choice? And what do you think about runner-up Amy McGrath?

Let us know in the comments section below!

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Cathal
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Cathal

@Deven

Like the Israel entry from 2014? Shut up!

Deven O'Kearney
Guest
Deven O'Kearney

@Cathal,

I mean this in the nicest possible way, you are a stupid and childish person. “The Eurovision fandom trying to defame the Irish song so it does badly”. Really?! If we do badly, it’s because the standard is too high, and we didn’t put in enough effort. Simple. No other reason. No voting conspiracies, no fandom defaming, just not enough effort.

Stop sulking and get over yourself.

Cathal
Guest
Cathal

I see the eurovision public are at it again, trying to defame the Irish song to ensure it does badly at JESC. Guess I won’t be watching JESC because of this as what is the point?

James
Guest
James

@(J)ESC Fanatic: The original was actually shorter in length when they had her perform the song live on the show. This wasn’t much of a major revamp, just some minor polishings and extending to the full-3 minute limit in time for the song reveal alongside that of who will be Ireland’s representative to the contest.

(J)ESC Fanatic
Guest
(J)ESC Fanatic

The original version of the song was really good, why did you revamp it, Ireland? I don’t like it as much now. It’s a shame because she has a great voice. 🙁

Ron
Guest
Ron

@ Erin, Zena is most certainly eligible to compete in JESC, the upper age limit is 15 on the day of the Contest, meaning she could even take part next year.

Incidentally, the full three minute version is further up the page. TG4 merely edited down all songs for their recorded shows to two minutes.

Héctor
Guest
Héctor

While I don’t like the song, it’s great to hear the Irish language. It’s really beautiful.

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

Whew, a risky song! She executes it very well, but I wish it was a bit slower.

Álex, from Spain
Guest
Álex, from Spain

At last I have a favourite! I was getting worried this year. Let’s see what Israel sends.

Erin
Guest
Erin

Zena was born on August 28th, 2002 so when the Irish selection started she was actually over 14. You could argue it’s only a technicality and that the rules can be relaxed if a participant is a few months under 9 or over 14, but the fact that she is eligible for participation means that the stringent age rules are open to interpretation. The song is a strange hybrid. It should be noted that it’s only 2 minutes long and that after the one minute exposition comes a slight pause where a one minute folksy variation on the main theme… Read more »

MarioMario
Guest
MarioMario

I’m glad Ireland sings in Gaelic while Malta never tries Maltese.

Rhin
Guest
Rhin

It sounds good. It is ballad but still pretty playful. It gives me good feeling 🙂

Robyn Gallagher
Editor

Why is she dressed like Madonna circa 1984? Oh, why not?

Nitzan
Guest
Nitzan

This song doesn’t catch my ear and I suspect the language is a part of it.

Paul D.
Guest
Paul D.

I don’t like her voice at all :s
The song is fine I guess

Mei international
Guest
Mei international

Come thru Alyssa Edwards reference

Esc@me
Guest

What an annoying voice and song

Jonas
Guest
Jonas

Hothouse Flowers – Eurovision 1988, Dublin – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WOUKOkM8iM

My previous post was probably came off as a bit anti-Zena, which I didn’t mean – no doubt she’s a great talent. I see she played Annie at some point – I can totally see that. Best of luck in Malta.

Jonas
Guest
Jonas

The song has no melody as such, but she delivers it well. That’s probably why she won. The Whitney video was definitely the highlight of this article – though if I was in that crowd, I’d be mad as hell that I had to listen to a precocious little brat sing one of Whitney’s greatest hits while the much-missed diva just stood there and smiled…though when she said “couldn’t have sang it better myself”, that was probably true at that point, sadly. 🙁 Mention of the Hothouse Flowers also prompted me to look up the 1988 Eurovision interval, where they… Read more »

beccaboo1212
Guest

Alright!!! 🙂

R+
Guest
R+

I’m happy with the winner. Zena was the best choice out of the six kids, but IMO Amy and Hannah could do well in JESC too.

Ron
Guest
Ron

Happy with the winner and Zena is a fine young singer. The song is possibly the best suited one to JESC out of the Irish finalists.

Both Amy and Clíona were great as well though and would have represented their country well.