Roses kick off with jiu-jitsu and ukuleles
'Well Dáithí, your heart pressure is just a little bit higher than when I did it before. Are you nervous?"
It has taken months of training, a 'sauna suit', a no-junk diet and hours of rehearsals for Dáithí Ó Sé to prepare for this year's Rose of Tralee festival, so he can be forgiven for feeling the pressure.
For many of the women, it has taken a lifetime to prepare for the big day. Ukuleles, jiu-jitsu and opera arias were just some of the talents displayed by the first 18 Roses in the Dome last night for the first of two live broadcasts from Tralee.
New York Rose and nurse Sarah Ward opened the show by checking Dáithí's blood pressure before he was put through the wringer by Westmeath Rose and weightlifter Leanne Quinn who showed her strength by sweeping Dáithí off his feet.
The musical strengths of the Roses were also showcased, as Dublin Rose and teacher Tanya Feighery showed off her ukulele talent.
Trained opera singer and Florida Rose Victoria Sexton wowed with a rendition of 'La Reve'.
But it was the emotional rendition of Aslan's 'Crazy World' by Carlow's Shauna Ray Lacey that was the stand out moment of the night.
Shauna revealed on stage that both her parents struggled with heroin addiction and spoke about her dad Francis Lacey who passed away five years ago.
"Growing up I wasn't dealt the best hand of cards. My parents were addicts. I was living with active addiction," she told Dáithí.
Shauna (24), who is the mother to three-year-old Emmy, said telling her own mother Angela she was expecting her first child helped turned things round.
"[My mother] said, 'I wasn't in your life but I will be in Emmy's life,'" Shauna said.
Meanwhile, Imelda Scally, the Leitrim Rose and a wedding sales manager, showed off napkin-folding skills by forming a candlestick, the Sydney Opera House, and finally a bishop's hat.
"And the Pope coming here and everything!" said Dáithí.
There was also plenty of Irish dancing on show with New Zealand Rose Jolene McLaughlin performing a treble reel, while Gráinne Carr, flying the flag for Kildare, danced a soft reel.
Sara Kate Mangan, the Abu Dhabi Rose, taught Dáithí how to wear a keffiyeh.
Kerry Rose Celine O'Shea, from Cahersiveen, may not have been related to the football dynasty, nor indeed Dáithí, but she was thrilled to be representing the Kingdom last night.
"Welcoming all the girls into this place that brought us all together in the first place is probably a highlight," she told the Irish Independent.
Among the 1,400-strong audience was the first ever Rose, Alice O'Sullivan. The former Dublin Rose took the crown in 1959.
"We had five people as contestants in 1959," she said. "It wasn't on RTÉ - RTÉ wasn't invented. But we got international attention because we were on Movietone news, which is the cinema....We were on cinema in the UK and the whole of Ireland."
The first night concluded with Paul Clabby being named Escort of the Year.