THE Emerald Isle is well known for producing more than its fair share of eccentrics but their musical expertise is fast becoming its most promising export - after Guinness, of course. Ireland's finest are recycling their traditional roots and reaching out to the current music culture, proving they are never short on innovation. Although most of the bands find it hard to break on the UK charts until they have toured or are picked up by an international record company, the recent arrival of a Gallup record chart, set up in Eire and going to air weekly on radio station RTE has become their first hope for recognition. This alone may have caused the explosion of Irish acts. The Limerick-based Cranberries, once called The Cranberry Saw Us, formed in 1990 and has been talked about since on both sides of the Irish Sea. A debut LP Everybody Else Is Doing It, Why Can't We? was released in March after an extensive UK tour. The angelic v oice of lead singer Dolores O'Riodan, who joined the band while still in her teens, had the group tipped as certainties before it was ready to deliver. The Uncertain EP last year disappointed everyone and caused a self-imposed hiatus until the release of the album, which has been criticised for having an excess of rather fragile pop melodies, but that is the Cranberries' style, and it has found favour with many. The Sultans of Ping FC, based in Cork, is a quartet of football freaks in lycra who started off doing a cabaret style act in pubs. As fortune would have it, the people they were parodying - those involved in the rave dance scene - picked up on their popularity and signed the line-upto Rhythm King label, home to dance group S'Express. The Sultans produced a single called Where's Me Jumper, a ditty about losing a new jumper in a discotheque. The Sultans would like to rid Ireland, if not the world, of dance music, which gets the blame for making people's lives dull and meaningless. Meanwhile the group has started a craze of air-cycling at gigs - lying on your back and pretending to ride a bicycle. The Ping was followed by the Pale from Dublin, which in 1992 began inventing music to be played on electric mandolin and drum machines. Fronted by a skinhead in Jesus sandals, the Pale was again aiming at novelty status rather than mass market appeal. The Willy Song took 20 minutes to write and record, but even if it did not take itself seriously, the line-up was signed to A&M last year. FRANK and Walter had its first album out in December last year but the pre-pubescent jolliness and florid complexions were a bit of shock for the city people who took the group in for a while. The trio camped out in a YMCA in south London for eight months until the single After All entered the British top 10. But its pop songs were considered too enthusiastic for the maudlin London crowd and singles like Happy Busmen got nowhere. Not all Irish exports wear knitted tea cosies and even while the Frank and Walter's fashion statements were filtering through the inner cities, Ireland's singular most promising band since U2 were getting ready for their latest album. The Hothouse Flowers were first helped into the recording business by U2's recording company, Mother. Six years on, they are still acclaimed critically and commercially. From traditional Celtic folksy beginnings, the Flowers went on to release a dance track as the first single, called Love Don't Work this Way. The band toured Japan, North America and Australia to promote the second album Home and saw it stay at number one in Australia for six weeks. The line-up continues to do low-key gigs in Ireland, including a homecoming concert that turned into a record crowd-puller. They had a hit with the ballad Don't Go, which labelled the band soulful, but with the release of their latest album, Songs From The Rain, they have proved their diversity. The album has the hallmark high standard of Stewart Levine who produced Simply Red and Womack and Womack. But while the musical range is skilful and faultless, they also appear directionless. At times, they sound like the Eagles, but a definite funky Hot Chocolate riff gets into This is it (Your Soul), while later they go gospel. The Duane Eddy/Twin Peaks impersonation on Emotional Time is easily the best track, but also the most bizarre. Eccentric they may be, but the Irish are here to stay.