A cancer nightmare, a Eurovision dream
From a serious cancer diagnosis to an official Eurovision bid, two West Cork musicians have endured the darkest of days and are now calling on the people of Cork to rally behind them as they set their sights on Malmö, Sweden.
Long time friends and musical collaborators Victoria Keating and Áine O’Gorman have been creating magic together for years.
As of today, or tomorrow if they've indulged in some more last minute tweaking of their song 'Béaltine', they have officially submitted to be considered for Eurovision 2024.
It has been a long and emotional road to this point for the West Cork natives. In May of this year, Victoria was diagnosed with cervical cancer, news that hit them hard but also brought a certain urgency and determination to their endeavours.
The song they have chosen for their Eurovision bid, described by the duo as a Celtic/tribal anthem, speaks of new beginnings, hope, and rebirth, and mirrors the journey Victoria has faced from the dark days after her diagnosis to a point now where Áine says her dear friend has really turned a corner for the better.
"Her energy is incredible," Áine tells the Cork Independent. "In the last month she's improved hugely. She's doing really well in spite of such a serious diagnosis.
"It was very grave in May when she was initially diagnosed but there's nothing stopping her. She is living with cancer but she's living and she's doing stuff and it's not holding her back in any way," adds Áine.
Just two months after Victoria's diagnosis, the pair released their single ‘Sweet Bird’, something Áine says gave Victoria a positive goal to focus on.
"Things were so dark, it was a very dark time. But there was a sense that there was forward momentum and that there was something other than cancer," says Áine.
"Now she's really enjoying it again, we've got gigs coming up and she's able to do all the things again," she adds.
Their song 'Béaltine', referring to the Gaelic May Day festival, was not originally written as a Eurovision song; however, once the decision was made to enter it, Áine says it took on a certain life of its own.
"We had it written already but we just had to kind of pimp it up a bit for the Eurovision," she laughs.
"When we wrote it we thought, 'God, this would make a brilliant Eurovision song!'. It has a real energy to it and it's really catchy, the chorus, you just can't help but get into it.
"It was too long for a Eurovision song so we had to do a bit of surgery and a bit of snipping here and there to get it under three minutes.
"We went for a kind of 'Riverdance' sounding production on the track," adds Áine.
When it comes to knowing what makes a good Eurovision song, Áine says she's no authority on the subject but that she harbours plenty of nostalgia for the classic Eurovision songs of her childhood.
"I used to love it as a child," she recalls. "I remember we'd all sit down and there would be snacks and it was a real event and we got to stay up late for the voting.
"I feel like everyone is open to a good song and I don't think that has changed. I think maybe Ireland has tried to curate the type song that they think will do well in the Eurovision and I don't think it's worked.
"Even in the submission information, they were very careful in how they described it, saying 'We have a young audience', so they were kind of saying it without saying it. We're hoping that our song is just so good that they won't be able to ignore us."
Asked if she and Victoria have allowed themselves to dream of the magical moment they might walk onto the Eurovision stage to represent Ireland next May in Sweden, Áine is not shy at all in her response.
"Yeah, big style! We've already planned what we're going to wear and everything, it's going to be good, it's going to be big, there might be hair extensions," says Áine.
"We're really excited about the whole thing. We're so confident in the song and we're just hoping that whoever's listening to it will be able to see it and to hear it and get behind it."
On top of all that, the duo will release their newest single, a cover of Johnny Logan’s ‘What’s Another Year’, tomorrow, Friday. This single will be on their first album 'Mouth Of Fire' which will be released in May 2024.
Making an album was always something Victoria and Áine had wanted to do, and when Victoria was diagnosed, they decided now was the right time.
"I thought 'we have enough songs, let's just do it'," says Áine. "It's coming together great. It (recording) is very tiring and it's very draining but it's magic as well.
"Generally, for the most part, myself and Vicky are on the same page about what we like and what we don't like, so it works very well. We've only a couple of songs left so fingers crossed it's plain sailing.
"The songs we write are quite feminine and it's very harmony driven because that's the way we sing, we like our voices to be equal."
Áine and Victoria hope to perform their song 'Béaltine' on 'The Late Late Show' early next year at which point they will call on all of Cork (and Ireland) to get behind them and vote to send them to Sweden for Eurovision 2024.