Michael Kealy remains firm in his position as the Head of Delegation for Ireland. Following a series of non-qualifications at Eurovision he gifted us Ryan O’Shaughnessy last year, putting Ireland solidly in the final and helping generate a great deal of press for RTÉ along the way.
Michael — a giant of Irish television who oversees iconic entertainment programming including the wildly popular Rose of Tralee — recently spoke to Irish local radio station Liffey Sound FM. He expressed his full confidence in this year’s entrant Sarah McTernan. He said that he always knew Ryan would qualify and now thinks the same of Sarah.
“We had a strong semi-final last year and everyone said we wouldn’t qualify, everyone said we would struggle to qualify…and we qualified comfortably. I am not writing our chances off by any means and I think she has a very, very strong chance to qualify.”
And why is that?
“A lot of those songs are very similar. A lot of them have a big ballad-y kind of song. Ours is different — ours will stand out for being different. There are also a lot of male vocals going on there. We don’t [have that]. We have a female vocal. That will differentiate us as well.”
Michael also revealed that the song wasn’t originally written for Sarah — or any woman for that matter! When the selection panel at RTÉ first heard the song they really liked it. But the demo actually featured a male singer’s vocal. RTÉ subsequently auditioned several artists. At that time even Michael thought that the song should have been sung by a man.
But after hearing Sarah’s version, RTÉ had a rethink. They were enthusiastic about her unique style and vibe, which took the song to another level.
In terms of the betting odds, Ireland lags behind as usual. Sarah is lightyears away from the favourites, including the Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence and Russia’s Sergey Lazarev. Michael is non-plussed by it all.
“It suits us to be a bit of the underdog, but not only in Eurovision, also in sports.”
He followed that up by saying it’s better to be a bit under-the-radar than to be a red hot favourite. When you’re at the top the only direction you can go is down.
He thinks the contest is still wide open and that nobody will be able to call it until the day. Speaking for himself as a music enthusiast and viewer, he does not see Sweden as a threat and isn’t worried that they will break Ireland’s record of having the most wins of all countries.
The Russian song didn’t do so much for him either — but he understands that that’s just his personal opinion. Plenty of fans are going gaga over it.
One song he was actually a fan of was “Hatrið mun sigra” from Iceland’s Hatari.
“I actually like the Icelandic song. It is a bit of a zombie-rock song. They are a visual act. They are a little bit like Lordi, but not as cartoon-ish. But I think the song is really strong. I think it’s the dark horse.”
Full interview – Michael Kealy speaks to Liffey Sound FM
Michael Kealy subsequently confirmed that Sarah McTernan will show up at the pre-parties in London and Amsterdam, and potentially the Moscow Pre-Party. Michael sees them as vital for the entrants to get experience performing in front of big audiences. It also boosts the spirit of camaraderie among acts.
And that, of course, is what makes Eurovision the event that it is. He once again emphasised that Eurovision is a music competition and nothing else. Despite the calls for Ireland to boycott Eurovision in recent months, RTÉ never questioned whether to send an act to Tel Aviv.
Are you as confident in Sarah McTernan’s chances of qualifying as Michael? Let us know in the comments below!