Eurovision 2023: Heartbreak for Ireland as Wild Youth fail to qualify for final

Ireland has now not qualified for the final of the song contest since 2018.

Wild Youth, representatives for Ireland, performed in tonight's semi-final© Getty Images

Kirsty Blake Knox and Eoghan Moloney

Ireland’s Wild Youth have missed out on a place in the Grand Final of Eurovision 2023.

The group performed their single We Are One in the semi-final on Tuesday night, but didn't make it into the top 10 despite a lively performance and a great reception from the crowd.

The group took to the stage sixth to a raucous applause from the large Irish contingent in the crowd and their performance was very well received by those in attendance.

The 10 countries who made it through to the grand final were Croatia, Moldova, Switzerland, Finland, Czechia, Israel, Portugal, Sweden, Serbia and Norway.

Ireland has now not qualified for the final of the song contest since 2018 when Ryan O’Shaughnessy made it with Together.

The Dublin band performed their song We Are One as the stage at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool was lit up gold and Irish fans in the crowd waved the national flag.

Conor O’Donohoe, who wore a green shamrock necklace, was surrounded by pyrotechnics as he delivered the song’s vocal climax.

Ireland has participated in Eurovision more than 50 times and has a record seven wins.

Dustin the Turkey also made a cameo appearance at the event as voting opened to send the winning semi-finalists through to Saturday’s final.

The band booked their place for Liverpool when they won the Eurosong on The Late Late Show contest earlier this year.

The group faced into the perceived tougher of the two semi-finals, with the other half of the draw taking the stage on Thursday.

The favourite to win the contest is Sweden’s Loreen, who performed against Ireland last night, although Finland’s song Cha Cha Cha was also hugely touted ahead of the competition.

More than 100,000 Eurovision fans arrived in Liverpool this week for the 67th annual song contest.

Many Irish fans had travelled to Liverpool to support Wild Youth. Grainne Fortune from Wexford was hopeful that the band would make it through. “I really like their music. I have watched the Eurovision since I was a kid - this is a real bucket list item for me.”

Sisters Ciara and Linda O'Callaghan had flown in from Cork. "I have loved this since I was a child," Linda said. "I'm so excited I may cry when I get inside."

Neil Farren from Dundalk, who works for Eurovision news site Eurovoix, said: "I hope for the best and expects the worst like all Irish Eurovision fans."

Presenters, Alesha Dixon, Hannah Waddingham and Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina arrived on to the stage this evening wearing dazzling colourful outfits.

Waddingham joked they were “honorary Liver Birds for the evening” while Sanina welcomed viewers with a message in her native Ukrainian.

She later thanked “beautiful Liverpool” for welcoming Ukraine and its people “with open arms”.

Spice Girl Melanie C also made a surprise appearance as the announcer, introducing the show and the hosts.

Norway’s Alessandra kicked off the first live show of the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool with her anthem of female self-empowerment, Queen Of Kings.

The Grand Final will take place on Saturday night.

Ukrainian Eurovision presenter Julia Sanina has said the contest has “come back to its own roots” through its support of her country.

The frontwoman of rock band The Hardkiss, 32, hailed the organisers for showcasing Ukrainian culture throughout the event.

Wild Youth arrival at Eurovision Song Contest 2023

She told the PA news agency: “The Eurovision Song Contest has become something more than the biggest entertainment music show last year and this year.

“It has come back to its own roots and aims which were uniting people in dark times and bringing the feeling of support to everyone.

“And, of course, this is the first time when two countries host together.”

Eurovision began as a technical experiment in television broadcasting in May 1956. After years of growth, it now describes its values as “universality and inclusivity”.

Sanina, who met King Charles and Queen Camilla during a recent event in Liverpool, admitted she had previously watched Norton’s chat show to help her practise English.

Speaking about her co-hosts, she said: “They all are incredible, so talented and professional. We’ve already had some rehearsals and I may say that the ‘chemistry’ is so strong!

“We feel and support each other and have a great time together.

“I am lucky and proud to work with them all. I am such a big fan of Graham and his show by the way. I was studying English watching his show.”

The singer last year sat on the professional jury to select Ukraine’s 2023 Eurovision entry alongside 2016 Eurovision winner Jamala and Taras Topolia from the band Antytila.

She said it was “right” the UK was hosting the contest on behalf of Ukraine.

“Unfortunately it’s still unsafe in Kyiv because of the war,” she said. “So we are very grateful that the UK is hosting with us.

“We do feel your support. And I think this synergy of two cultures will bring us an unforgettable show.”

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