Introducing this year's Rose of Tralee winner
Junior Doctor and Offaly Rose Jennifer Byrne (24) made history last night when she was crowned the 2017 Rose of Tralee.
It is the first time in the festival’s 59 years that ‘the Faithful County’ has won the crown.
Jennifer, who works as a junior doctor in the Accident and Emergency department of University Hospital Galway, was stunned when Dáithi Ó Sé read out her name.
“I can’t believe it, I’m still in shock. My heart is about to jump out of my chest. It is fantastic.” she said.
“The first thought I had was “Did Dáithi just say my name?’ I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
Asked if she will be able to keep working in A&E given her new Rose duties, she replied: “I will have to think about it and let everything sink I’m. I’ll talk to my family and work and see what happens then.”
The final 14 Rose sisters took to the stage last night for the Rose of Tralee grand final. Things got a little bit Bucks Fizz when Dublin Rose Maria Coughlan whipped off the lower half of her dress.
“Jaysus!” a wide eyed Dáithi exclaimed.
But before things got too risqué, Maria started bouncing around the stage to Stolen Kiss from Michael Flatley’s ‘Lord of the Dance.’
The previous evening had been filled with bizarre and baffling party tricks.
Last night, things were slightly more subdued. There were plenty of songs, which seem to have replaced poetry in terms of popularity after the verse was banned from the competition in 2016.
Showman, Dáithi cooked a very sorry looking omelette with the Kerry Rose.
The RTÉ crew had a pow-wow about what temperature the saucepans should be for the cookery demonstration.
“Remember. the bigger the disaster Daithi’s omelette is, the better it is .” said one.
There was also a First Aid demonstration – Daithi lying prostrate on the ground as the Galway Rose told us how to resuscitate people.
Most of the Roses had opted for songs – a decision the New Zealand Rose was regretting having lost her voice after nearly two weeks of Rose duties.
The Florida Rose Elizabeth Marince was also concerned that her voice might not hold up.
“My voice sounds like a dying elephant,” she said.
Moments later she delivered a pitch-perfect rendition of Up the Kingdom.
Being on stage seems second nature for Elizabeth: she works in Disney World, where she is an “official friend of” Belle (from ‘Beauty and the Beast’) and Ariel (from ‘The Little Mermaid’). “What exactly does that friendship entail?” one of the reporters asked. “Is that a coded way of telling us you dress up as them?”
“Well, as we all know Ariel and Belle are real,” she said earnestly.
“I have the honour of knowing them very well.”
The bookies’ predictions were swinging wildly and in the press room no one seemed to be any wiser about who would be named the 2017 Rose.
“The one with the puppet, or the lady dancing on boxes, or perhaps the one who shook death’s hand?” There was everything to play for.
Storm clouds on the horizon hinted at a torrential downpour but the orange weather warning in place didn’t seem to bother any of the organisers.
“Sure there’s always an orange weather warning in Kerry,” one man said. “The Dome is well used to rain and a bit of wind.”
The Dome could become a sturdier and more permanent fixture, according to managing director of the festival Anthony O’Gara.
“A lot of people come here wondering where the Dome is and it’s not here,” he said. “If we can find the finances we can make it permanent within two years.”
In the make-up tent, Roses kicked off their shoes and loaded up on Tangtastic Haribo sweets as their hair was braided and eyebrows were painted on.
“It’s all manic and rushed,” hair stylist Kara McDonagh said. “But come midnight we won’t believe it ended so soon.”
The 2016 Rose of Tralee Maggie McEldowney believes that whoever is crowned tonight should steer clear of airing their opinions on controversial subject matters.