Tuesday 27 September 2016

'Gran used to tease me, saying who do you think you are - the Rose of Tralee?'

Published 25/08/2016 | 02:30

Newly crowned Rose of Tralee Maggie McEldowney in the Rose Garden Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Newly crowned Rose of Tralee Maggie McEldowney in the Rose Garden Photo: Frank Mc Grath

It was third time a charm for 2016 Rose of Tralee winner Maggie McEldowney. The Canadian Rose (27) had applied to take part in the competition twice beforehand.

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She said her grandmother, Brigid O'Neill, who was born in Maghera, Co Derry used to tease her about becoming a Rose.

"My grandma and aunts would always joke and say 'Who do you think you are - the Rose of Tralee?'," she said.

"I'm a perfect example of 'if at first you don't succeed try, try again'.

Maggie McEldowney pictured on stage Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Maggie McEldowney pictured on stage Photo: Frank Mc Grath

"This is my third year applying to take part but this is my lucky year to make it through."

She was the first Rose to take to the stage during the second televised finals and during her time on stage discussed her love of golf and running marathons.

Maggie celebrating on stage Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Maggie celebrating on stage Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Tuesday night's programme was a big hit, with 618,600 viewers tuning in after the 'Nine o'clock News'. Yesterday, during a photo shoot in the Rose Garden in Tralee, Maggie said she was still coming to terms with the title.

"I had just two hours of sleep, but I'm not complaining. When you're part of something like this you hit the ground running and this is what we signed up for.

"It's slowly but surely sinking in. When I woke up this morning I was wondering if it was all a dream, but it's a dream come true - here I am," she said.

Maggie works as director of development at Marist High School, a prominent Catholic school in Chicago.

Dáithí Ó Sé tries on a Samba outfit during the festival Photo: Frank McGrath
Dáithí Ó Sé tries on a Samba outfit during the festival Photo: Frank McGrath

She said she never thought in a "million years" she would be crowned Rose and spoke of the honour.

"To be sitting here before you, it is such an honour and a privilege and I hope I represent our year to the best of my ability."

She also stressed that she wanted to prove there was more to the contest than "glitz and glam" and it was not simply a beauty pageant.

"I would love to alter the image, just like the Roses before me have done," she said.

Dáithí Ó Sé tries on a Samba outfit during the festival Photo: Frank McGrath
Dáithí Ó Sé tries on a Samba outfit during the festival Photo: Frank McGrath

It is the third time Chicago has won the contest, as a contestant from the Windy City also took home the title in 1960 and 1987.

"It's unbelievable. Every day I got to wear the Chicago sash I was beaming with pride. There is such a strong Irish community in Chicago I cannot wait to share the news with them. The crown is coming to Chicago!"

She added that she "couldn't wait to spend more time in Ireland".

"I'll be here as often as physically possible, to my delight, because if I could move here tomorrow I would. The country is like a second home to me."

Maggie's boyfriend, Jim Fitzgibbon, works for the Chicago Fire Service and was unable to attend the festival.

However, she said he was delighted when he heard the news.

Meanwhile, host Dáithí O Sé said he was delighted with how things had run over the course of the festival.

"It's been another fantastic year at the Rose of Tralee," he said.

"This is my seventh year hosting and each year it just seems to get better.

"I'm delighted for Maggie. Her calm and caring nature really shone through over the last week - right through to the stage.

"She'll certainly make an excellent ambassador for the festival."

Irish Independent

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