Love life 'rosy' as romance blooms for Daithi
Former Rose beats stiff competition to win the heart of host
NEW Rose of Tralee host Daithi O Se has found love -- with a former contestant of the pageant.
Daithi confirmed the "special person" in his life is none other than 2008 New Jersey Rose Rita Talty.
Daithi -- who last night presented his first Rose of Tralee -- said the first sparks of romance were ignited when he watched Rita do her party piece on stage at the Dome in Tralee two years ago -- a rousing version of Pat Shortt's hit 'Jumbo Breakfast Roll'.
"I started going out with a girl over the summer -- she started hounding me and I hounded her right back," he sa id.
"I have known her for a long time through the Rose of Tralee -- she was the New Jersey Rose back in 2008. That's when we became friends in the beginning and we have stayed in contact since then.
"She is living in (Dumont) New Jersey and we stayed in contact for the first year or so and after Christmas we met up once or twice in the States. I was working on a show (in the US) and we decided we would give it a go."
Rita hails from a respected Irish-American family who has extensive business interests in New Jersey, including an Irish pub chain.
"It's great to have someone so supportive at this time. It's great to have someone like Rita in my life at the moment -- very important and great for me because she understands what goes along with the gig of being a Rose. She has been through the whole thing and been through it from the other side.
"But she will be the first person throwing rotten tomatoes at me tonight," he laughed.
"No, seriously, it is great to have someone that supportive with you. To have someone like that with you, someone you don't have to explain that (pressure) to -- it is great."
Daithi joked that Rita flies back to the US on Wednesday, and he'll have to swap her for broadcasting beauty Claire Byrne, with whom he begins recording a new RTE show later this week.
He acknowledged long-distance romances did pose their own challenges, but said he was in "a really happy place at the moment".
Daithi added: "She is someone very special and we're getting along together really well.
"We are just talking about our options and we have nothing decided yet -- but it is all great. It's all going very rosy."
But Daithi's romance wasn't the only thing smelling of roses last night.
The Corca Dhuibhne native delivered an impressive performance on his Rose of Tralee debut -- and he got a firm thumbs-up from former presenters including Ray Darcy.
"I had a mug of tea with Ray Darcy and he said the main thing is just to be myself," Daithi added.
It also proved a special day for Toronto Rose Yvonne Herber, who marked her 21st birthday with a surprise party in the Dome -- and a stirring chorus of 'Happy Birthday' sung for her by all the Roses and escorts.
"It's a birthday I will never, ever forget," she said.
It was also a remarkable night in the Dome for two girls from Roscommon's proud Ballymurray parish.
Both pharmacist Aine Shine (24) and reporter Roisin Hunt (24) hail from the same GAA-obsessed parish and both attended the same Mercy secondary school in Roscommon -- but are now respectively the Roses for Liverpool and San Francisco, thanks to emigration.
"It is funny the two of us meeting up here in the Dome of all places," Aine admitted.
Earlier, Tralee town paid tribute to all 32 Roses for their contribution to Ireland's most famous festival which, by lunchtime today, will have hosted more than 100,000 visitors and generated almost €8m for the local economy.
Mayor of Tralee Cllr Arthur Spring hosted a civic reception for all the Roses, escorts, their families and festival officials in the Siamsa Tire Theatre.
Meanwhile, the Derry Rose's escort, Robbie Costelloe from Tralee, Co Kerry, last night walked away with the Escort of the Year prize.
The festival will reach its finale in the Dome around 10.30 tonight when outgoing Rose of Tralee Charmaine Kenny hands over her tiara to the winning 2010 Rose.