Saturday 21 July 2018

O Sé is King of Rose photocall tradition

Run Dáithí, run: Ó Sé at the Rose of Tralee launch where he met all 64 hopefuls for the first time. The festival will broadcast on Monday and Tuesday. Photo: Andres Poveda
Run Dáithí, run: Ó Sé at the Rose of Tralee launch where he met all 64 hopefuls for the first time. The festival will broadcast on Monday and Tuesday. Photo: Andres Poveda
Solid: The notorious waxwork of Conor McGregor
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Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

The tooraloora lovely girlishness tradition of the Rose of Tralee is the festival's bread and butter.

This grates with many who like to make predictable Father Ted jokes and ask "Are we living in the 1950s???".

But in the past two years, The Rose of Tralee has (accidentally) been very on trend.

In fact, at times it's been ahead of the curve, and has addressed controversial issues like gay rights or abortion.

It even introduced us to the idea of Hygge [warm and hearty goodness] before most of us had even figured out how to pronounce it.

So, when the Rose of Tralee photocall took place this week, I sprinted along.

We can thank Marty Whelan for elevating the ROT photocall into a cultural institution.

He picked up the presenting baton from Derek Davis in 1997, and for six glorious years he would deliver fantastic stock shots.

We had Marty being lifted into the air by the Roses, Marty wearing a Stetson and twirling his moustache, Marty with a single red rose clamped between his teeth, Marty jumping in the air with the Roses, Marty lying spreadeagled in front of the RTÉ television building while slightly confused Roses looked on.

After Marty came Ryan Tubridy and Ray D'Arcy and the photocalls took a steep nose dive.

These men did not enjoy the ROT photocalls; they endured them and for years ruined the annual tradition for the people of Ireland.

But then a new dawn emerged.

Enter stage right - Dáithí Ó Sé.

A man who has gone above and beyond the call of duty.

This week he made his grand entrance on a bright red helicopter. The Roses, all dressed in red, stood beneath him and waved.

Once Dáithí was on the ground, the Roses did what Roses love doing most - throwing their shoes at Dáithí's head while running through grassy parkland.

"Tighten it up!" a photographer hissed. "Throw the shoes higher! Higher."

There was a moment of acute crisis when a passing six-month-old labradoodle called Brady snaffled one of the Roses' heels and began chewing it.

"Leeeeave," his owner said, wrestling the sorry-looking shoe from Brady's mouth.

"I hope she wasn't planning on wearing those shoes in The Dome," another Rose whispered.

In time-honoured tradition, the Roses were given a variety of props to hold; hurls, and GAA jerseys, hats, and a baby.

We were introduced to the obligatory Leaving Cert Rose - this year from Monaghan, last year from Offaly.

Rose of Tralee PR man John Drummey ushered over different groups of women to chat to us. Each of them was given an interesting intro: "This is Enda Kenny's cousin", "This lady's parents fell in love at the Rose of Tralee in 1978", "This Rose has type 2 diabetes".

Then Dáithí strode over and told us about his plans to tackle any potential stage stormers to the ground.

"A good shoulder should do it," he said before telling us about his Rose of Tralee fitness programme which consists of 'hard walking' and no custard buns.

We heard that poetry is still banned but there will be lots of fun entertainment acts like limbo dancing, speed painting, a recital of 'Danny Boy' in Cantonese, whip cracking, and aerial acrobatics - performed by the Donegal Rose Amy Callaghan.

"We still have to figure out if I'm going to wear trousers under my dress," Amy told us.

And then the ladies crowded on to the bus, waving and smiling.

"We'll see you in Tralee," they called as they straightened their sashes.

Mystic Mac's statue stands up to critics

Solid: The notorious waxwork of Conor McGregor

People have been most unkind about the new Conor McGregor waxwork unveiled in the National Wax Museum Plus this week.

The New York Post claimed it looks like a re-animated corpse, while others said it bore more of a resemblance to Charles Stewart Parnell or Fair City's Decco than The Notorious.

There were even suggestions the statue was meant to depict McGregor after he'd gone a few rounds with Floyd Mayweather.

But according to museum proprietor Ed Coleman, it got the nod of approval from ­Mystic Mac's nearest and dearest.

"Conor's dad Tony was here and he said it looks just like him," Ed told me.

"If his dad thinks that, well, it's saying something." It certainly is. Ed is well used to criticism of the waxworks and says it all comes with the turf.

"Online people made some funny comments. One person said the melted wax on their mantelpiece looked more like McGregor than the statue but one thing is for certain - it's got people talking, and it's kept people entertained." That's the spirit Ed!

McGregor is the first sporting star to be added to the museum in 17 years - the last was boxing champion and Celtic Warrior Steve Collins.

"There was talk of doing Brian O'Driscoll," Ed says. "But we never got round to it." Sorry BOD - those are the breaks.

Personally, I like the McGregor statue and think he looks perfectly at home sandwiched between Donald Trump, and broadcaster Gerry Ryan who is sporting a Matrix style leather coat. The Notorious has even been kitted out in a bespoke Louis Copeland suit. The museum refrained from stitching 'F**k you' into the pinstripes.

"We're a family museum," Ed explained. "But we might put a handkerchief with 'Feck you' in the pocket."



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