Last year at the end of August before starting my first year of teaching, I spent four wonderful days in Tralee at the Rose Festival. I had the most amazing time and was totally blown away by the Festival. The highlight of my couple of days in Tralee was without a doubt the two nights in the Dome, it was such an amazing experience and seeing my friend Siobhán O’Reilly (The 2009 Luxemburg Rose) on stage was so special. My friends and I got to share the whole experience with Siobhán and her family which was really lovely and rather than just being a spectator, I felt part of the experience. Leaving Tralee, I had been totally bitten by the Rose bug.
When I heard that the Limerick Rose Centre was looking for girls to take part in the 2010 Limerick Rose selection, I jumped at the chance. I think being in Tralee in 2009 really pushed me to go for the Limerick Rose.
Being a Rose is something I have always wanted to do. When I was in college, I had filled out an application form for the Limerick Rose but something in the back of my mind told me the time wasn’t right and I never went ahead with it. This time I had no doubts in sending off my application form and was looking forward to what lay ahead. The Limerick Rose selection was all I could have wished for and more. As part of the Rose selection we had to organise our own escort, fortunately my cousin, Brian Collins was happy to escort me. The process began with an induction night which informed us of what was going to happen. I felt excited and a little anxious. Our next big event was a press night in the Southcourt Hotel. I think we all felt like mini-celebrities that night getting our photos taken and walking into the room on the arm of our escorts. The reigning Limerick Rose, Sharon Kennedy, spoke to us all on how her year had been and it was obvious that she absolutely loved every minute of it. It sounded amazing and being a Rose seemed like a wonderful opportunity.
During the Limerick selection we had a social night, an individual interview and a group interview as well as a rehearsal for our on-stage interview and party piece. I wanted to do a party piece but was unsure of what to do. I am a primary school teacher working in Gaelscoil Uí Ríordáin in Cork and Irish has always been a huge part of my life. I knew that I would love to do something fun that incorporated my love of Irish and that is why I decided to do the Haka in Irish. I think my brothers were a little apprehensive that I was going to look ridiculous on stage doing an Irish version of the Haka but I decided whatever way it went, it would be different.
I was really lucky that my school in Cork were so accommodating and let me hop into the car and head home to Limerick for different events that led up to the selection.
Time really flew by and before I knew it, I had my dress and was getting ready for the big night. The selection night was a great evening and really entertaining. My family, friends and boyfriend all came out to support me and it was great to know that I had so many people behind me. Charmaine Kenny, the 2009 Rose of Tralee, was there on the night and my friend Siobhán, the Luxemburg Rose accompanied her. Charmaine is such a lady, a fantastic public speaker and overall a lovely person. It was so nice to meet her and to be in the presence of a Rose of Tralee. At twenty to one in the morning, I was the last girl to be interviewed on stage. As the time for my interview approached, I got a little nervous but was looking forward to getting on to the stage. Ed Meyers who acted as MC put each of us at ease straight away and I enjoyed every second of my time on stage. As for my party piece, it seemed to go down very well and I have to say thanks to all the Limerick escorts for taking part in the Haka with me. Totally on a high after my time on stage, I headed home looking forward to the next night.
This year Limerick was choosing its 50th Rose and I feel the committee put on a most amazing show. As well as the selection night, they also held a Golden Jubilee Rose Ball which was superb. Now that the on-stage interviews were over and done with, all of us finalists could sit down and really enjoy our night. The Ball was a great success and was attended by former Roses of Tralee, Dianne Hannagen and Muirne Hurley. Dianne and
Muirne looked stunning and were so friendly, it would be a lucky girl who would become a member of the long list of lovely Limerick Roses! I admit that as we formed a semi-circle in front of the stage to hear who would be crowned the Limerick Rose, I became a little nervous. The girls in the Limerick Rose selection were such a great bunch and I had many great chats and laughs with them throughout the process.
I don’t think I will ever forget the moment when my name was announced. It was one of the best feelings in the world! One of the first things I did was to turn my head to see my parent’s faces and they were in as much shock as I was. From that moment on, the night became a whirlwind. As I was being crowned the Limerick Golden Jubilee Rose, Cormac Hurley sang the Rose of Tralee as he had done for his own daughter Muirne, in the Dome in Tralee in 1994.
Over the next few days, I have never seen my phone so busy with texts and congratulations flying in. Our house phone was constantly ringing and I even got a mention at mass on Sunday morning! That Sunday was like being on cloud nine. However, it was quickly back to reality as I had to return to school on Monday morning. That Monday was a little different though, as now I was going back as the Limerick Rose. My class were so excited and the teachers were in and out throughout the day to hear all about my special weekend. Some of my class had even gone on the internet to see if I had won. It was great to be able to share the experience with my class and school.
Once reality had sunk in, preparations began for the Regional Finals in Portlaoise in June. Sadly, not all of the Irish Roses can go straight through to Tralee and must instead go through Regional Finals. I spent the June
Bank Holiday weekend in Portlaoise and had the most brilliant time. The Regional Finals are run like a mini Rose of Tralee Festival with a Civic Reception, a vintage car parade, visiting local attractions and spending each night getting all dressed up in ball gowns. It really gave all of us a taste of what Tralee would be like. The girls I met were so lovely and each one of them was deserving of a place in Tralee.
I learnt that you can always rely on the people of Limerick to come out and support you and I feel that my support was second to none. I walked out on stage to ‘Limerick You’re My Lady’ being belted out by all my family and friends. It was such a special night and a great experience. Unfortunately, of the six Irish girls that were chosen in Portlaoise, I wasn’t among the finalists.
Throughout this whole Rose experience, the best advice I have been given is ‘to be yourself’ and reflecting back on my time in Portlaoise that is what I did. I don’t have one single regret and have a fantastic year ahead of me as the Golden Jubilee Limerick Rose. I am so proud of the fact that I am just a normal, everyday girl from Ahane who has been given this amazing opportunity to represent my County and City. I suppose the biggest thing I have taken from my Rose journey is how lucky I am to have such a wonderful family, boyfriend, friends, parish and Rose Committee around me. To all of you, I can’t thank you enough!!!! To be honest, I was disappointed not to get to through to Tralee but my Mam always says had I got through to Tralee, ‘the parish of Ahane would have emptied out’ and knowing that, who could ask for more.