Ireland’s journey to Junior Eurovision 2022 has officially begun!
The opening heat of Ireland’s junior selection show, Junior Eurovision Éire, aired last night on the Irish-language channel TG4. It featured the first batch of talented young singers, vying to represent Ireland at Junior Eurovision 2022 when it takes place in Yerevan, Armenia this December.
The show began with an explanation of its voting system and general format. Each singer must perform an Irish-language cover of a song of their choice for three judges; the judges then award an amount of “stars” out of 10. The performer with the most stars immediately qualifies for the next stage of the competition, while the two next best must reprise their covers in a sing-off. In the eventual series finale, a public vote will be introduced in order to decide the winner.
Each week will feature a guest judge from Eurovision history — this week marked Niamh Kavanagh’s appearance, notable to Eurovision fans for winning the contest in 1993 with In Your Eyes, and participating again in 2010 with It’s For You. She joined permanent judges Niamh Ní Chróinín and Chris Greene.
Our first entrant was Holly Mountstephens, who performed a lovely rendition of Gavin James’ Nervous. Holly was awarded 20 stars; she was praised by Kavanagh for hitting every note.
Next up was Claire Keeley, who performed Whitney Houston’s version of I Will Always Love You. Claire immediately drew great praise from the judges for her astounding vocals: Kavanagh stated that she was impressed with how Claire “can tell a story at 11 [years of age]” through conveying “sweet and gentle” tones in the song. Niamh Ní Chróinín was also impressed, remarking: “You hit [the notes] and you were flawless.” Claire was awarded a total of 23 stars.
Following that, it was time for Harry Moriarty, singing This is Me from the popular musical ‘The Greatest Showman.’ Chris Greene praised the performance by remarking that Harry was indeed “a great showman.” Harry received 21 stars.
After a quick commercial break, we were introduced to Lara Gleeson, who stunned the judges with her cover of Billie Eilish’s When the Party is Over. Kavanagh praised the “great balance of light and shade” in Lara’s vocal; Ní Chróinín agreed, remarking that she could imagine Lara in the future with a Grammy award. Overall, Lara swept the judging panel away, achieving a total of 26 stars.
Next was Ella Kelly, performing a spellbinding cover of Ghost by Luan Parle. Greene complimented Ella’s technique, while Kavanagh joked that if Ella could do such a great performance at eleven years old, she was worried for her own career. Ella received 22 stars.
Finally, Grace Whelan took to the stage with her version of Linger by the Cranberries. Greene praised Grace’s ability to convey a complex range of emotions through her voice. Grace was awarded 21 stars.
Lara Gleeson, with her cover of When the Party is Over, was the winner of Heat One of Junior Eurovision Éire. She advances to the Semi-Final of the show.
She will be joined by Claire Keeley, whose performance of I Will Always Love You was chosen by the judges in the sing-off.
Junior Eurovision Éire continues next Sunday at 20:30 GMT on TG4, and will run every week for the next five weeks until the final. Once an overall winner is selected, a song will be specially composed for the artist to bring to Junior Eurovision.