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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
No song for Ireland at Eurovision
Gary O'Shaughnessy: Six votes for Without Your Love
Gary O'Shaughnessy sang Ireland's 2001 entry
BBC News Online's Paul Rocks looks ahead to a quiet weekend for Irish Eurovision fans

It will be a strange weekend for the proud Irish on the international stage.

But this story has nothing to do with Roy Keane's early exit from the World Cup.

It is worse than that - a Eurovision Song Contest with no Irish entry.

A meagre six points was all Ireland could pick up in last year's contest in Denmark.

New European Broadcasting Union rules determined the record seven-times winning country would have to sit out the 2002 contest in Estonia.

Michael Flatley
Michael Flatley: An Irish Eurovision success
Eurovision night is a bit of a tradition in the Emerald Isle, usually with the friends gathered around and a helping of liquid refreshment.

But with no Irish entry to cheer on, it just won't be the same. So what has gone wrong?

Boy band guru Louis Walsh has criticised Ireland's approach to the competition in recent years

Following last year's result, he blamed national broadcaster RTE for not appearing to "have any interest in it any more".

"They allow people to enter who have had no previous television exposure."

Chart-toppers

Some people within the business feel Mr Walsh has a point.

Dana had a huge hit with All Kinds of Everything in 1970, while Johnny Logan topped the UK charts with his Eurovision winners in 1980 and 1987.

Westlife
Could Westlife sing for Ireland?
But of the country's four winners in the 1990s, the biggest success was not the Irish winners in 1994, Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan.

It was the Riverdance show in the interval that launched the toe-tapping careers of dancers Michael Flatley and Jean Butler.

So where should Ireland look to regain the national pride?

Louis Walsh managed the interests of two Eurovision winners since 1980.

Johnny Logan won the competition in 1980 and 1987 while Linda Martin took the accolade in 1988.

Mr Walsh believes the way forward is to follow the UK's example and enter established artists into the affray.

Last year he said one of his acts had written a song for the competition, which he said "could have won it".

"Bryan McFadden of Westlife had written a song which would have been perfect," he said.

So could it be Ronan Keating, Westlife or Samantha Mumba flying the flag of Ireland in 2003?

And what of that Irish entry that got just six points last year?

'No regrets'

It was written by a Pat Sheridan, a bus driver from Newry in County Down whose previous experience was playing the local bars.

Speaking afterwards, he said he was not downhearted.

"There was pressure on us right away as soon as we got there, because Ireland has done so well previously.

"But we had a fabulous week touring and meeting the celebrities. As far as I'm concerned it is still a good song. This hasn't put me down. I've had harder knocks."

Talking of hard knocks, there is one other bitter pill for the Irish to swallow.

The rules that excluded Ireland from this year's competition do not apply to the UK because it is one of the four largest competing countries.

See also:

24 May 02 | Entertainment
14 May 01 | N Ireland
13 May 01 | Entertainment
13 May 01 | Entertainment
13 May 01 | Entertainment
09 Mar 01 | Entertainment
12 May 00 | Entertainment
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