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Ireland: Molly Sterling – Playing With Numbers

Ireland's Late Show has once again hosted the Eurosong format, but thankfully, without the 'odious little man' controversy. What was a surprise was market leader, Nikki Kavanagh turning up without her voice. The eventual winner, determined 50/50 by televote and jury, was Molly Sterling with the song, Playing With Numbers. If there's one thing Ireland needed, it was a more credible package to send to Eurovision, having served up a melange of cheap, banal b-sides over the last few years. Much like the UK did with Molly last year, the Emerald Isle can use their Molly to hit the reset…

Review Overview

Song Appeal
Vocal Strength
Staging Potential
Likely Televote Appeal
Likely Jury Appeal
Cohesiveness of Package

Short of Numbers

The anonymity of Ireland's song is the big danger and Molly needs to use March and April to develop the visual package of Playing With Numbers.

User Rating: 3.12 ( 23 votes)

Ireland’s Late Show has once again hosted the Eurosong format, but thankfully, without the ‘odious little man’ controversy. What was a surprise was market leader, Nikki Kavanagh turning up without her voice.

The eventual winner, determined 50/50 by televote and jury, was Molly Sterling with the song, Playing With Numbers.

If there’s one thing Ireland needed, it was a more credible package to send to Eurovision, having served up a melange of cheap, banal b-sides over the last few years. Much like the UK did with Molly last year, the Emerald Isle can use their Molly to hit the reset button and draw a line under the last few years.

Playing With Numbers is no Playing With Fire: it won’t inspire a sudden burst of foot-tapping or wake elderly relatives from their slumber. However, it will ensure Ireland is looked upon in a more favourable light by the juries.

On the other hand, the problem for Ireland lies in its anonymity compared to the other ballads selected so far, or those expected to be selected in Norway and maybe Sweden if Mans loses out to Jon Henrik Fjallgren. Cyprus plays the innocent boy card, Iceland goes all Frozen, Malta hits some powerful notes, Switzerland is stylish and Latvia steamrollers all of those aforementioned nations. If Norway send A Monster Like Me, Mørland & Debrah stand to own the simple, anonymous ballad identity with what promises to be a classy affair.

Those assuming a generous points haul from the likes of the UK and Sweden should check the numbers. You have to go back to Lipstick to see the UK award at least 10-points to Ireland in the semi-finals. In 2014, 5-points were awarded by the UK, and in 2013, 6-points. Sweden only awarded 3-points in 2013’s semi-final. Again, one has to go back to Lipstick to witness big points. The anonymity of Ireland’s song is the big danger and Molly needs to use March and April to develop the visual package of Playing With Numbers.

If Ireland qualify, I doubt we’ll be seeing them on the left-hand-side of the scoreboard.

Did Ireland make the right choice?

  • Qualification History
  • Final Performance
  • Allies
Since 2008, Ireland have qualified four times in seven attempts. 57% qualification success.

Highest semi-final score: 92 (2012: Jedward – Waterline)
Lowest semi-final score: 22 (2008: Dustin the Turkey – Irelande Douze Pointe)
Average semi-final finishing position: 10th
Average semi-final score (since 2008): 56 points

Ireland has finished in the top-10 twice since 2004.

Highest score (since 2004): 119 (2011 – Jedward – Lipstick)
Lowest score (since 2004): 5 (2013 – Ryan Dolan – Only Love Survives)
Average final position: 19th
Average final score: 43 points

Average Points Received

United Kingdom – 6.6
Sweden – 5.7
Switzerland – 4.9
Denmark – 4.9
Austria – 4.6
Norway – 4.3
Belgium – 4.1

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ESCtips Owner   I’m a qualified designer and dedicate a lot of my free time to keeping the ESCtips show on the road. My family routes allow me to support the UK, Ireland and Italy.


  1. 3.5 stars is far to kind 🙁 we gone.

    • the only positive i can think of is Kat didn’t win…nothing more

    • You should be proud of Ireland. Molly was your best bet at Eurovision, and you avoided the nightmare of sending cheesy Swedish europop to the big dance.

      • i would have loved that song because then we would shave had a shot at qualifying, how on earth is Molly going to stand out against 16 other entries? especially when she’s in the first half, if she was second half maybe there would be a chance but not from first half. i don’t want to sound extreme and i almost certainly do by saying this but i actually almost feel like boycotting eurovision this year 🙁

      • but at least with erika we would have qualified.

        • I doubt she would have. Juries would hate it. Molly will qualify.

          • I’m really struggling to see how it will.

          • i do think potentially if the staging is right and a good running order draw ( last 3 preferably) it could shock in the final, the trouble is qualifying as on a Tues/Thurs its mainly teenagers voting and they will be wanting uptempo songs etc, if it can sneak into the final in the final it will be playing in front of families who will love her to bits as she has it all unlike the other teens this year. its just a song that i will never like but i do see potential as its a real unknown quantity.

  2. Mostly due to vocal strength. It isn’t a bad song, it’s just dreadfully unsuited to Eurovision.

    ps. try and fit your comments into a single box.

  3. To be fair the panel screwed things up for an erika win… her performance wasnt great but still could have beaten molly. The Irish format has to be seriously reset

  4. I gave Irish NF very little attention. I listened to the songs one time over and there was one song worth another listen. I placed a little party bet on it 0.4 points and I won! Now I’m really kicking myself not for betting more and playing with numbers in my head.

  5. People are seriously underestimating this song. Juries will really like it even though Semi 2 is looking very ballad-heavy. I’m saying it qualifies in 10th and I’ll be throwing egg on everyone’s faces saying “I told you so”

  6. Hmm, quite an interesting little number, (badum-tsh.) It’s got a nice, sweet class to it, but it’s just so dull. They’ll have to really stage it to show off the musicality and make Molly appear cute, modern and likeable as she already does. Molly needs to work on the vocals which are a bit groany to my ears and she needs to give the camera a few smiles while she plays.

    This can qualify, and if staged well, could creep into the top 10, and Molly’s stage appearance combined with the sweet melody of this song’s chorus will be what does it for her, rather than strictly the song as its own entity. The lack of a lift will be the main thing that holds it down and prevents it from qualifying. This is a good step forward for Ireland, definitely the most relevant entry from them in donkey’s years, but the variables suggest very contrasting fates for the entry. It’ll sink or swim, in short. Reserving full judgement until rehearsals.

  7. This has similarities to the Common Linnets last year …. When The Calm After the Storm was released everyone thought it was boring but unique. This song doesn’t really have the same swoon if you will about it but it is different and unique

    • to me this is more like “Would you” in 2012, I’m usually very patriotic and always get behind our entries but i just can’t this year, if this was in the second half i would give it a shot at qualifying but in the first half there is no way it will stand out against 16 other entries, it hasn’t a hope sadly 🙁

  8. 16 year old on stage with that voice, that get’s votes. A 16 year old girl almost won here in Iceland and was equal María in total jury+televote despite having a really thin voice and a dull song.

    I think you are under -rating the televote-appeal a bit, people love talented youth.

    The song is not that special though, but it’s decent and hard to mess up on stage. In my books this should qualify. I just really like the title of the song, cause I relate to it a lot!

  9. I must be honest and say that she will qualify. She had the best live performance and could absolutely do well with the right staging. We’ve stayed true to ourselves while the song is crisp, fresh, modern and radio friendly. Her maturity is well beyond her years and people want to see young new talent.

    • I’m inclined to agree with Deven, but the song won’t do anything exceptional on the final scoreboard in its current state. It has no aural impact whatsoever in either your typical big dramatic way, or in your more subtle sweeps and lifts. There’s no crescendo of any kind. Ireland are relying on pleasant visuals against a sweet, inoffensive soundtrack here. The visuals will determine this song’s score.

  10. I have never been so happy to being on the piss and not seeing it live and knowing kat didn’t win as I would have been bricking it otherwise for financial reasons. On the night molly was the best performer for me and surprised Nikki and Erika were so poor. Thankfully I learned my lesson from the Denmark selection and kept this green. Not so sure this will qualify from the semi it’s very borderline for me. Leaning to non-qualification at this moment in time.

  11. Probably deserved to win.Iv always considered Nikki nothing more than a poor wedding singer and so it proved.
    For ESC however i think this is probably sunk already.There is very little here for the juries.It will pick up a few votes from them,but its so dull i doubt it will score very high.Televoters will pass it by as well id expect.María Ólafsdóttir and Mélanie René both easily outshine this and both have the second half of the semi.
    The slight hope is the UK and Australia voting in the heat and also there is just enough quality to stage this well.Of the songs in Semi 2 so far chosen id score this bottom if i was on a jury.

  12. People need to remember that vocally, Erica and Nikki were trumped by a 16yr old on the night. I think that on its own speaks volumes. A totally deserved victory 🙂

  13. you must look how well the others would have done in Vienna with performances like that…. In Vienna based on tonights performances Molly has the best chance of qualifying

  14. I think this may squeeze into the final and then end up well down the points board, alas. It’s a serious and respectable entry and thank goodness that Dustin Turkey days are behind us, but if Ireland is ever going to revisit the glory days of the 80s and 90s, then this will NOT be the one that does it.

  15. Wish to echo Mark’s comments. Molly is a talented girl with a great voice who has a future in the music business but I really worry for her if she qualifies for the final.
    Was it just me in thinking that our final was meant to be a platform for Nikki. The RTE guide carried an article about the contest, it contained a large photo of her with the word “WIN” emblazoned overhead. Hardly a level playing field….. then Nikki got it seriously wrong and the 16year old gave a performance that couldn’t be overlooked.
    I wish her well.

  16. Another element to point out is the problem surrounding acoustics in the late late studio. You could tell that the louder tunes, of Break Me Up and Memories suffered slightly. Molly’s song aurally, (Both vocals and arrangement) was perfect; neither loud enough to sound pitchy or soft enough to induce a lethargic effect on Tele-voters and Jury members alike.

  17. another big Allie for Ireland is Switzerland and Israel, they both usually give Ireland decent marks when they send songs like this, in 2010 ( last time Ireland sent a ballad) Ireland got 12 points from Switzerland and in the final that year Ireland got 6 points from Israel which considering Ireland only managed 25 points that evening is pretty decent. A large reason for irelands low score from the UK in recent times was because of a low jury score cancelling out a good tele vote meaning Ireland are fighting for 4 and 5 pointers. I agree that the visual needs a BIG boost but this is the late late show and normally Ireland expand on there staging when they get to Eurovision (last years staging was horrific but it was expanded) the potential is there i just don’t see RTE being able to make the most of it like The Netherlands for example would have. overall I’m a lot more confident about the song then i was Saturday.

      • I did, Alot of what i wrought is based on the review 🙂

        • What makes you think Ireland will be first in the queue for the big points from Switzerland and Israel with other ballads in the mix? Are you implying that Ireland is the best ballad song in semi 2?

          • Not at all but its in the mix.

          • You don’t know what Juries/Tele-voters are going to prefer on the night (or jury show) .

          • Well actually we can tell once we’re at rehearsals, but if Norway select their Monster song, I predict both them and Latvia will be higher in the jury/televote reckoning that Ireland.

          • I agree with Norway but i disagree with Latvia, definitely in the tele-voting. But i don’t think Ireland will win the jury unless the staging was probably the best staging ever. My prediction was if the visual package was improved it could do what Holland did in 2013, come 6th or so in the jury (definitely possible) and come borderline (9-13th) in tele-voting also quite possible,and like you said we will not know the answers untill the rehearsals in may, last year we would never have predicted Holland and Austria in the top 2 so you can’t really say how this song will do untill we know what it looks like on stage. Atm if im honest in swinging both ways so i don’t really have an accurate prediction to give untill rehersals but i remain open-minded.

          • It may be Norway but you forget that juries will actually need to like the song first, i listened to the Monster song and its clearly nothing special. it won’t make Eurovision anyway as Norway have way better entries to pick.

  18. Like Azerbaijan for me, Ireland has another one of those entries that refuses to shake itself off, one I’ve kept my eye on for a while.

    Talking of the song, it has a rather pleasant, mellowed, melodic tune gliding along unrequited sentiment and the didactic form so as to hit home the message for the listener. Molly herself appears to be quiet and endearing in person, with a rich, textured set of vocals, putting her I feel, in the same territory as Birdy or even a young Kate Bush. “Playing with Numbers” hardly complements the “Wham-Bam” Eurovision format, the kind of song better suited for a shady indie bar on the outskirts of town, the sort of song for lethargic drinkers to reflect momentarily, before downing another one; Not the type of song that’s there to galvanise mass attention, and therein lies the problem.

    Staging will be crucial, and so here’s the basis of my rough idea, something to capture the slightly dark mood of the song centering around relationship troubles.


    Having the stage dimly lit helps to create atmosphere that the song induces anyway. Place the “Roll on Roll off” prop of the kitchen wall at a slight side angle with Molly playing the piano in front of it, (2/3 backing singers in the background). I would have a young distressed couple, acting out an argument resulting in perhaps the man leaving through the door, the camera capturing the woman’s sadness all the while there would be a clock (With Numbers), it’s hands spinning fast, to symbolise the time the woman (Showcasing Molly’s sentiments) has wasted trying to make the relationship work. Finally I’d have the same Woman, by the songs end, taking the clock down and throwing it out the door on stage to signify that she has finished “Playing with Numbers”. The camera should be held at close range throughout, capturing both the stage act and Molly’s performance.

    I’ll be honest, it is an ambitious plan, but if Ireland are to get any-where in the modern day template of the contest, they have to be daring and unorthodox in approach. An on-stage gimmick is a motif RTE wouldn’t touch with a barge-pole, from observing previous Irish (Casualties) entries, despite the fact that this is the direction taken by numerous successful nations like Azerbaijan the past three years, Austria from 2014, and even Sweden with Mans Zelmerlow’s effort this year. Okay, a stage plan like mine given, could stretch their budget but I feel that if RTE could host Eurovision several times in the nineties, than they could certainly afford something like this. It all comes down to intent, as my underlining fear for Ireland is that Molly and her team just being there, in Vienna will be job done, considering she is just a 16yr old, inexperienced songstress who has come from nowhere to suddenly be representing her country on the world stage. It has Non-Qualifier written all over it, unless of course RTE go for something totally unconventional for the live performance in my view.

    So what do you think of my idea, am I mad? ;). It would be great to hear some feedback from you on this!

    • payload2.cargocollective.com/1/4/137193/2350075/Sgint%20set.jpg

    • But in both cases of Azerbaijan and Ireland, how many listens of the song did it take before they achieved that sticking effect in your mind?

      The kitchen idea for staging is certainly imaginative. I take it you’ve seen something similar in a movie or TV show before? However I think Ireland would be best serving themselves by going with musical integrity this year. They’ve spent too long throwing stereotyped kitsch at every entry whether it needed it or not and they’ve paid the price.

      Molly does need to work on her on-screen charisma. It’s lovely to see a young girl at a piano, but I’m not sure the leather jacket gets across the right kind of look. It did all come off a bit mediocre and stuffy on the Late Late. There’s an argument for Ireland to qualify with a somewhat refreshing song which, to me, sounds like it should be on the Love Actually soundtrack, but SF2 this year is more brutal than ever, and we should be looking for qualities other than just outright impact, running order and country of origin. Ireland have a huge mission on their hands qualifying this year, but it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. Subtlety is key.

      • On Azerbaijan… just once.

        • Yeah, I know Azerbaijan is good. Still don’t think it has quite as much immediacy as their top 5 entries though.

      • Thanks for the replies, and Ben, I understand what you mean with Azerbaijan and Ireland, needing to listen to them more than once as that was the case with me to be able to appreciate their quality,and both of them I’d say are up there as being two of the least contrived entries in this year’s field. As you’d know yourself, at ESC it’s about having a memorable song, not necessarily a good one, but it certainly helps though. In the case of both countries a strong stage show is pivotal.

        Apropos the kitchen plan, it germinated from the re-occurring scene from Birdman where an argument rears it’s ugly head on stage in the broadway theatre production
        and for whatever reason, I felt it slotted into place with Molly’s song that I think has a lingering surliness to it.

    • Ireland did indeed leave a good first impression in my mind. It’s nice, non- offensive and not commercially irrelevant. The song it self is not a masterpiece but it’s sincere and genuine and Ireland’s best effort in years. In almost any other sf I would say it should qualify, but this semi final is a big mountain to climb and I really doubt Ireland will make it but it would please me to see this entry surprise.

  19. I think Molly is a very talented artist.The problem for Ireland though is the make up of the semi.We dont know the staging yet, but both Latvia and Slovenia have top quality female artists.I cant see any reasons a jury would back Ireland over them.In the televote stakes again the sweet girl votes should go to Iceland.
    I think Irelands best approach is probably to play it straight.Give a quality,simple delivery to highlight the artist and song.
    As for Azerbaijan i dont rate it at all at this stage.It has staging potential as he is very capable, but the song doesnt hold you.Il probably keep it green until i see staging,but i consider it one of the weaker eastern entries.

  20. Updated version of Playing with Numbers:

    I know the clip above is not official, but I can tell you the song in this new form is available on itunes, having already downloaded it myself last week. The previous version remains on Eurovision.tv, although I doubt there would be any obligation to replace it with this one.

    Now, I find myself somewhat relieved that the bridge and climax have an orchestral lift, something I feel works rather well. As discussed above I do rate the song highly, but I’m not sure about their chances. The only thing I will say is that for me, this song is the hidden gem in this year’s pack, and considering new, alternative, quieter tunes have had success in recent years (Calm after the Storm, Birds, Kedvesem, Me and my guitar etc), Ireland might just have a sleeper hit on their hands.

    • Hmm. The drum rolls are a little bit irritating for me. Rather unfitting and somewhat desperate attempt to create drama, but it did need something doing to it, so I suppose it helps.

      Still not sure if this will qualify, just because SF2 is so competitive, but it is a sweet little song. Just depends on Molly connecting with viewers I reckon.

      • i also find the drum rolls and cymbals irritating especially when they are in the first minute of the song. Hope this is not the esc version.

  21. I don’t find it so irritating. It should lend itself well to some on-stage instrumentation. Anything to distract from this dull as f**k song.

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