Will Irish Eyes be Smiling for Glee Project Contestant Damian McGinty?

The Derry~Londonderry native made it onto The Glee Project, but will he win?  

The Glee Project is a televised, serial audition for a role on America’s most-beloved (and admittedly, only) musical teen dramedy, Glee. Hundreds of hopeful teenagers applied, travelling to the initial auditions from all over the world.

When the dust, and the drama, settled, 12 talented young hopefuls were left. Amongst the 12 were hopefuls likes Ellis ‘I’m 18, I swear’ Wylie, dreadlocked Samuel Larsen (skadoosh) and – would you believe it?! – Derry~Londonderry’s own Damian McGinty.

Like a few of the other contestants, 18-year old McGinty was already an experienced singer. He is a member of Celtic Thunder, the five-soloist band formed by Phil Coulter. Speaking with CultureNorthernIreland, Coulter recalled the first time he encountered the young McGinty.

‘It's nearly five years since I received a CD in the mail from a friend of mine in Derry, featuring his neighbour's 14 year old son. The chances of discovering something worthwhile that way are about the same as winning the Lottery. I was blown away and within weeks had signed the kid up to begin his apprenticeship in Celtic Thunder.’

As part of the group, McGinty has recorded albums, toured extensively amd performed all over the world. Celtic Thunder have even opened the famous St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City and performed for the Obamas at the White House.

Despite that previous experience, however, McGinty got off to a rocky start on The Glee Project. He was in the last three sing-off on the first week – performing a malapropos version of 'Jesse’s Girl' (I wish I was Jesse’s Girl) – and in the third, with a tear-stained 'Are You Lonesome Tonight'.

When it came to the crunch, though, McGinty always impressed the judges, and managed to scrape through to the next round. Now there are only two weeks of the show left in the States (although British and Irish audiences are three weeks behind) and McGinty is one of the final four contestants.

If there is to be an Irish transfer student at McKinley next year, however, McGinty has some stiff competition to beat.

Alex Newell is a shameless divo (male diva) with bag-loads of talent. His personality tends to overshadow the more laid-back McGinty, but that’s not always a good thing when you’re up for a supporting role. Besides, fans of the show have taken to calling him Kurtcedes and think he is too much like existing characters.

Larsen is another strong contender. He had auditioned for the show before and only narrowly lost out on a role, so we know the producers like him. Larsen also has a distinctive rocker-reggae look, and there is a gap for a bad-boy in Glee, especially with Puck taking a back seat to the love hexagonal of Finn-Quinn-Sam-Rachel-Santana-Jesse last season.

On the other hand, Larsen has shown reluctance at the idea of representing a homosexual character on the show. That might not go over well, with the show or the fans.

Then there is soprano Lindsay Pearce, the final girl on the show and the ‘real-life Rachel Berry’. She is a triple threat in that she has a solid grounding in the Glee life-skills of singing, acting, acting the diva and dancing.

Pearce has also come up with an idea for her character having a Cinderella arc. As the last girl on the show, she’s in a strong position to make it through to the finale, but the editing has consistently made her out to be the snobby ‘mean girl’.

Don’t count out McGinty just yet, though. Maybe he can’t dance, but his voice is distinctive and it would be interesting to see someone from outside America deal with all the crazy. Plus there has been a lot of support for him among the fans, with comments like ‘Damian, stop making me fall in love with you’ and ‘Damian and his sexy Irish accent’ posted on fansites. His ‘Irish Rap’ was also a hit with viewers and contestants alike.

‘When I watch Damian battle his way through some pretty intimidating obstacles, and hold his own against some seriously talented opposition in The Glee Project, I am so proud of that wee lad from Derry and of how far he has come,’ Coulter says of his protégée. ‘You are going to hear a lot more of Damian. Mark my words.’

McGinty’s supporters in Derry~Londonderry are eager to see their city represented by the young singer on American TV. Garbhan Downey, Communications and Marketing Director for Derry~Londonderry’s Culture Company, says there is great delight – but little surprise – at McGinty’s achievement.

‘For a city of just 100,000 people, Derry punches so far above its weight in cultural terms that, if it were a boxing match, the ref would stop the Rest of the World,’ he says, before going on to point out that McGinity’s success seems fated.

‘50 years ago Phil Coulter was the president of the Glee Club at Queen’s University, Belfast. Now, half a century later, his protégé stands to take over Glee International.”

Will he or won’t it? The blogosphere is still divided on that, bickering over the implications of comments made on Twitter or by notoriously unreliable narrator, Ryan Murphy.

If McGinty does win the role on Glee, do you have any ideas for his character? A new love-interest for Quinn, perhaps? Someone to come between Kurt and Blaine? Or maybe he can work with Jacob Ben-Israel on his blog?

The Glee Project is on Sky 1 at 8pm on Wednesdays, but is airing behind the US, where the show's finale is August 21. Check out CultureNorthernIreland's What's On guide for more Glee events.

(CultureNorthernIreland did consider rendering this article in song format. But, none of us can sing and we don’t own an auto-tuner. Trust us, it’s kinder for us all this way.)