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It's Eurovision, Miss World and 'Father Ted' all rolled into one -- but we love it

IMELDA May is a straight talker, but she tied herself up in knots trying to explain the Rose of Tralee -- and its enduring success -- yesterday.

She isn't the first and she won't be the last.

Eventually the rockabilly singer told her English band mates that the festival is a mixture of Miss World, the Eurovision and Father Ted.

Not that she was writing it off as a "lovely girls' contest" you understand.

In fact, the Liberties girl had nothing but praise for the festival and said she was delighted to have been asked to perform her new single 'Road Runner' in The Dome last night.

She revealed how her parents had begged and borrowed -- but stopped short of stealing -- so she could attend the festival when she was about 10 years old.

"When they asked me to sing I said I'd love to do it, I'm a huge fan of the Rose of Tralee," Imelda said last night.

"I remember loving it as a kid and watching it on telly and loving the glam. A lot of kids get dressed up to watch it and it's good for the whole family.

She recalled how she got the train to Tralee with her parents when she was a child and they had camped out in the railway station. Then with tickets secured they got "dolled up" and headed out to The Dome.

But explaining it to her band, she was at a loss until she hit on the three things that transcend both cultures.

"All the band are English and I was trying to explain to them what it was like," she explained. "They said 'is it like Miss World?' and I said it was nicer and they have no bikinis but they seemed to be disappointed at that," she laughed.

And while the Rose of Tralee is the show we love to slag off -- the latest viewing figures from TAM Ireland, Live and Vosdal have made liars out of more than one million of us.

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Some 601,000 people watched the second half of Monday night's live TV performance and this figure was expected to top one million viewers for the unveiling of the new Rose last night.

First off the mark last night was Boston/New England Rose Moira Sullivan, who coped admirably with host Daithi O Se's banter -- and his lingo. The Alaskan native was even able to understand the host when he asked her how she goes "traipsing across the country" to college in Boston. And later it could be said he was doing a bit of "barking at the cars while tied to the post" when he told the Donegal Rose she'd be able to "talk a pig into a ham sandwich" with her accent.

He was right at home, though, with Dublin Rose and Gaelgoir Siobheal Nic Eochaigh who told how this year had been such a contrast to the previous one, when her mother battled breast cancer.

The Clondalkin student, who works in an off-licence didn't need any Dutch courage for a hip-hop dance routine that raised the roof and temperature in The Dome last night.


Although audience share was down by 4pc to 42pc on Monday, RTE bosses were happy with the ratings and with the performance of host Daithi O Se. "There was always going to be additional interest in Daithi's first year as presenter but we're delighted with the figures," an RTE spokesperson said.

And the host also reminded those who gave out about the contest that they did have a remote control.

It seems the Rose of Tralee leaves an indelible mark on the soul -- and although 31 girls went home disappointed last night, they'll always be Roses.

There is no such thing as a "former Rose of Tralee", organisers stressed.

"They are all still Roses and are welcomed back with open arms each year to the family."

And so 16 Roses of Tralees made the annual pilgrimage to the Co Kerry town last night for the final of the 2011 contest, and took their seats in the VIP area behind the 2010 Rose Clare Kambamettu and her family in a packed-to-capacity Dome of 2,000.

Not that anyone was watching at home, of course. Sure you'd rather watch paint dry. Sure, we believe you.

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