All opinions expressed in this article are those of the person quoted and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the other team members or ESC United as a whole.

It’s 5 days to go until Junior Eurovision 2022, and we are counting down the 16 nations who are participating in Yerevan, Armenia on Sunday, December 11, 2022.

Every day we will do an overview of a participating nation in alphabetical order, recapping how they got to Junior Eurovision, a brief history of the nation’s participation, a brief biography of the artist, and finally, our “expert” panel of editors give the entries a score out of 10 and a brief review.

Next up, we look at Ireland, a country that has struggled in both adult and junior formats, though has won plaudits for getting the kids to fly the flag for Gaelic culture.

Ireland’s history at Junior Eurovision:

Ireland only debuted at Junior Eurovision in 2015, and unfortunately they have performed about as well as Ireland have at Eurovision in the same time span. But for very different reasons.

Relative lack of success at Junior Eurovision is not for lack of trying, though, and Ireland has not been afraid to showcase Irish culture and Irish musical heritage. Ireland has to get the rub of the green some time though to date, 10th place in 2016 with Zena Donnelly’s “Bríce ar bhríce” is their highest placement.

Taylor Hynes’s “IOU” has quite the cult following, especially among editors at ESC United, but could only land in 15th for Ireland at Junior Eurovision 2018. Similarly, Anna Kearney’s “Banshee” retains a cult following, even though it placed 12th at Junior Eurovision 2019. Ireland bowed out of Junior Eurovision 2020 due to COVID-19 hampering its preparations.

Maiú Levi Lawlor brought some Gaelic rock swagger with “Saor (Disappear),” though unfortunately came in 2nd last and 18th.

Another quirk: though Ireland is allowed to sing entirely in English due its being an official or language of business or language of a sizable native population group in Ireland, Ireland has on six occasions sent more songs in Irish to Junior Eurovision than Ireland’s entire history in 50-plus years at Eurovision (once, with Sandie Jones at Eurovision 1972).

Before Junior Eurovision 2022:

Ireland once again used Junior Eurovision Eire as a method of selection for Ireland’s representative. Junior Eurovision in Ireland is supervised by TG4, a subsidiary of the independent Irish language network Teilifís na Gaeilge. Though owned by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTE), by law TG4 has been independently run and operated since 2007.

Junior Eurovision Eire 2022 started with four Heats rounds, with the four winners advanced to the Semi-Finals. The second and third placed performer in each heat then faced off for a second song, where the winner of the duel also advanced to the Semi-Final. The Top Two of the eight Semi-Finalists then made it to the Grand Final, and third and fourth place went to a duel, the winner of which also made it to the Grand Final.

Most of the songs the kids performed were pop songs – both local and foreign – familiar to Irish viewers. In the Grand Final, the three kids had to perform two songs: a pop song from an influential artist, and three songs that had won Eurovision for Ireland. Niamh Ní Chróinín and Chris Greene were the judges for each episode, with a rotating guest juror every week. Northern Irish singer Brian Kennedy was the guest judge on the Final, which was aired on October 23, 2022.

Slight difference for 2022: The winner of Junior Eurovision Eire 2022 was decided entirely by online vote instead of a combination of jury and online vote.

Out of all this, Sophie Lennon emerged victorious over Clare Keeley and Niamh Noade in the Grand Final.

The Artist:

13-year-old Sophie Lennon hails from Mayobridge in County Down, Northern Ireland. This makes Sophie the first Junior Eurovision representative for Ireland to hail from the North.

She has professional experience under her belt, playing Young Fiona in Shrek: The Musical in Belfast and won BBC School Soloist of the Year in 2022.

The Song:

In an interview with ESC United’s Connor Terry, Sophie said her song “was written with the message that no matter how dark or sad times get, you will always have the light inside of you which will guide you through tough times. And remember, everyone has that light inside of them, it can just be hard to find sometimes, but never let that dishearten you.”

For “Solas” (Light), TG4 got the usual team to craft a song for Sophie. We have Jonah Gladnikoff and Niall Mooney, the team who wrote “Et Cetera” for Sinéad Mulvey & Black Daisy at Eurovision 2009 and “It’s for You” for Niamh Kavanagh at Eurovision 2010.

Gladnikoff also has experience for Ireland at Junior Eurovision, having co-written Aimee Banks’s “Réalta na mara” and Taylor Hines’s “IOU”. Mooney co-wrote “IOU”, Anna Kearney’s “Banshee,” and Maiú Levi Lawlor’s “Saor (Disappear)”. Glanikoff also shows up in many a national selection for Eurovision, with highlights including Maxim Zavidia’s “I Will Not Surrender.

Matthew Ker, Hannah Featherstone, and Ken McHugh round out the writing and production team.

With the background out of the way, here is what we at ESC United think of Ireland’s entry for Junior Eurovision 2022.

Providing their thoughts for Junior Eurovision this season: Alice Christine (Washington, D.C.), Boris Meersman (Belgium), Gianluca D’Elia (New York City, New York), James Maude (Los Angeles, California), Roy Postema (The Netherlands), William Carter (Dallas, Texas), and Zephaniah Gabriel (The Philippines).

The Verdict:

Alice – 9 – “Beautiful melody and sweet vocal. Irish language lends itself well to a song with this air of mystery and adventure.”

Boris – 8.5 – “Lol I’m a pretty big DA3 stan (ask me about my love for Dorian and Vivienne, I dare you), so I still have to adjust to a song called “Solas”. This “Solas” is very good though. It is one of those rare JESC ballads that manages to be captivating. The music features strong ethnic instrumentation with a few pockets of quiet zen speckled in, and that hits a sweet spot for me. “Solas’s” real power however is it that manages to effortlessly conjure up a sense of wonder through mere sound. Spin the magic indeed! I wouldn’t underestimate Ireland this year. Give “Solas” staging that helps you be emersed by Sophie’s World and it could be a dark horse.”

Gianluca – 10 – “This entry is magical. It was beautiful and compelling all the way through. It’s traditional, yet it feels like such a breath of fresh air. Parts of the song remind me of “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion, but it never feels derivative. The bridge and key change of this song feel so cinematic. It has winner potential for me!”

James – 9.5 – “My only fear is that Sophie’s ballad is not given proper backing with a decent staging. To sell a ballad like this, some dramatic clashes between light and dark will be needed to complement the tumult of the thunder and lightning-esque percussion and low rumbling bass. “Solas” is an unmistakably Irish, New Age composition of an Enya or Clannad vintage, and to have pulled it off with a kid vocalist and not sound hokey is a minor miracle. This song makes you feel Sophie’s pulling you out of the darkness and into the light, and I hope it is rewarded with a decent result for Ireland.”

Roy – 4.5 – “I love the Irish language, it sounds enchanting in a way. The song builds towards an enchanting climax as well. It builds with anticipation towards the chorus and then… A trap beat to bring us completely back to ground. It just never reaches the epicness that was hidden within Sophie or the direction of the song. It also reminds me a little bit of Bistra Voda from Bosnia & Herzegovina from 2009. That song did have and epic feel to it and maybe this will surprise me live, but as is, I am afraid that Ireland will yet again, underperform.”

William – 6.5 – “This video! Give me a YA fantasy show about Sophie and her magnificent red hair befriending selkies on a coastal peninsula. Would watch. Maybe her character’s father is the light house keeper? Just brainstorming here. Vocally, this is top notch. I’m not totally bowled over by the song as a whole in the way that I want to be, and the ending key change doesn’t work for me at all. But, ya know, c’est la vie. Maybe I’m just jealous of Sophie’s head of healthy hair. With all due respect to Konstrakta, Meghan Markle’s locks are yesterday’s news.”

Zephaniah – 8 – “This sounds magical with the way it is arranged. I love the way it builds up. The transposition to a higher note is a little awkward but it works. Hopefully, the live performance is better than this.”

Total: 56 points (Average = 8.0)

And a new country has overtaken Armenia in the lead for Junior Eurovision 2022, and in true ESC United fashion, it is an unheralded one. Ireland is also the first entry to average 8.0 in the ESC United editors poll, and though we often get the specific winners wrong, the actual winner will have been one to average over 8.0.

1.) IRELAND – 56 points (Average = 8.0)

2.) Armenia – 54.5 points (Average = 7.786)

3.) Georgia – 52.5 points (Average = 7.5)

4.) France – 52 points (Average = 7.428)

5.) Albania – 42.5 points (Average = 6.071)

What do #YOU think of Ireland’s entry? Do #YOU think Ireland could be the surprise entrant and unexpectedly win or place high in 2022? Let us know in the comments below, on social media, or in our forum.

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