Ring of Kerry for Rose Molly as proposal lights up first night
IT WAS a Rose of Tralee first, a marriage proposal live on stage – and she said 'yes'.
The New Orleans Rose, Molly Molloy Gambel, had no idea it was coming and it was the most tightly kept secret in Tralee.
And the mixture of joy and shock on her face when boyfriend Kyle Catlett (23) got down on one knee proved it.
"No, no, no," said Molly in a moment of utter shock, as the penny dropped about what was just about to happen.
But it was soon confirmed that the answer to the crucial question was definitely 'yes'.
"I only said 'no' because I was so shocked. I couldn't believe this was happening on TV going live to the nation as well as overseas and all my friends were watching," a clearly delighted Molly said afterwards.
She said she had no inkling Kyle planned to propose. And she admitted that even winning the Rose of Tralee would not beat the emotion of the proposal, although it would be "up there".
"I couldn't even breathe, the tears just started flowing. I was so excited, I could not believe this was happening" she said.
In front of a packed Dome and before an estimated half-a-million viewers at home – not to mention the hundreds of thousands more who watched online – brave Kyle popped the question to the 23-year-old University of Alabama graduate.
Kyle, who hails from Florida, said his heart was beating wildly but he was encouraged when he heard the boyfriend of the 1993 New Orleans Rose had done the same thing – though not live on stage.
It could have been an impossibly hard act to follow, but there were a few more surprises in store, though not quite as dramatic.
Daithi jumped into bed, drank a shot of Screech rum and became an honorary Newfoundlander.
There was further emotion as hours before going on stage, Perth Rose Jean O'Riordan was finally introduced to her new niece, Joanna Healy, whom she has been looking forward to meeting since February.
Originally from Watergrasshill in Co Cork, plastic surgeon Jean is representing her adopted home city.
She revealed that sadly she didn't have any talent to perform on stage last night – unless it was to cut open Daithi's face.
Leitrim's Edwina Guckian performed a sean nos dance using a half barrel and a brush.
The 25-year-old primary school teacher has been dancing since she was five and set up her own dance club, 'Sean Nos ar an tSionainn', 10 years ago.
Ottawa's Keira Kilmartin boasted a unique claim to fame – she was one of the first to discover pop sensation Justin Bieber while on a school trip to Stratford Ontario in 2008.
"He was sitting on the steps of the cathedral playing his guitar and he looked about 10 years old and was so cute we threw some money in his guitar case," she said.
Blessed amongst women was Co Louth's Jonny McGailey (25), who was voted Escort of the Year.
The strength and conditioning coach with the Louth senior football panel, who is escorting the Leitrim Rose, described it as one of the "best weeks of his life".
Meanwhile, one of the country's best-known former Roses has defended the festival, which was described by one critic as "a cattle mart with hair spray".
Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain, who was the 2005 winner representing Mayo, said she never felt demeaned by taking part in it and was "incredibly proud" to have been a Rose.
Her defence of the festival follows comments made by columnist Katy Harrington, who described it as "fake", "offensive" and "cringe worthy" and said it didn't represent modern Irish women.
Speaking on Newstalk radio, Ms Ni Shuilleabhain said: "I had a great time doing it and I didn't feel demeaned at all and I didn't feel I was causing anyone else embarrassment. I didn't feel it was derogatory to me to participate in it."