Hopefuls race for place at Eurovision's 60th birthday
THE race to represent Ireland at the Eurovision has begun with five finalists being selected to battle it out for the chance to travel to this year's extravaganza in Vienna.
Music fans will get a chance to listen to the tracks from the nominees on the Ray D'Arcy Show today.
Public voting will then open but a judging panel will also have their say as to who will follow in the footsteps of Johnny Logan, Linda Martin and Dustin the Turkey and represent Ireland in the contest.
The winner destined to go to Austria in May will be selected on the Late Late show on February 27 after a live performance from the five acts.
This year's hopefuls are Alex Saint and the MJs; Kat Mahon; Erika Selin; Nikki Kavanagh; and Molly Sterling.
The national broadcaster says its "gone back to basics" in the search for a star and appealed to singer-songwriters late last year to submit entries.
Two of this year's contestants are working figures who have enjoyed previous Eurovision success to help push them over the finish line.
Alex Saint, a Zambian-born rapper, has employed the skills of Tony Adams-Rosa who has been a finalist several times.
The Belfast-based artist is convinced that this could be the year for a rap to nab the title of the best song in Europe.
Kat Mahon (28), from Tipperary, worked with Charlie McGettigan who won the 1994 event with Rock and Roll Kids, a duet with Paul Harrington.
Nikki Kavanagh is vying for her spot on stage for a second time having missed out to Jedward in 2011.
"I'm a huge Eurovision fan; I've been there before and would love more than anything to go back as lead vocalist representing our country," she said.
Molly Sterling - another Tipperary girl - is the youngest contestant looking for her chance to jet off to the glitzy contest.
The 16-year-old is a self-taught musician who is already working on an album.
She co-wrote her song Playing with Numbers herself.
Erika Stelin (23), from Sweden, is hopeful that she will have a chance to improve on Ireland's recent track record in the competition.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the song competition and traditionally Ireland fared well, picking up more wins than other countries.
However, despite notching up seven victories over the decades - Irish performers have failed to make an impact since the 1990s.
Eimear Quinn was the last Irish winner, scooping the top prize for her song The Voice back in 1996.
Transgender artist Conchita Wurst from Austria triumphed at the 2014 show.
She will join Johnny Logan, the only singer to have won the competition twice, at a special anniversary concert in March.
Graham Norton is set to host the colourful night that will be broadcast by the BBC.