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A fine professional job on the dreariest TV show of the year

Let's face it, watching the Rose of Tralee is an endurance test.

As a television spectacle, the show is right up there with the test card and that snowy interference you used to get back in the days when television sets came in two colours -- black and white.

Hosting it must be and endurance test, too. I can't say I've ever attended the Rose Festival proper, although I did once interview one of the American Roses (though I can't recall which one). She was beautiful, charming, fragrant and as dumb as a box of used-up spark plugs.

"What do you like about Kerry?" I asked her.

She thought for a moment and then said: "It reminds me of Dahblin... All those liddle stone walls."

Mmm. Maybe she meant a different Dublin.

Anyway, if that was my limited experience, you can imagine what it must be like being up there on the stage in the Dome, working your way through 14 of these girls in one night (no sniggering at the back, you smut bunnies!).

Being the Rose of Tralee host is hardly the coolest job on television, but it's certainly one of the most demanding.

You have to maintain interest during a seemingly never-ending stream of banal babble, twee anecdotes and dreary recitations, while at the same time making sure you hit all your cues and don't fluff your lines.

To his credit, new host Daithi O Se made a fine job of it on his first time out.

Stepping into the black patent shoes of grandfatherly Gaybo, chummy Ryan Tubridy and brotherly Ray D'Arcy, who made the job his own these last five years, must have been a daunting task.

He's still a young man, after all, and the fact that he's making a little bit of history by being the first Kerry-born host carries with it additional pressures.

If you're going to muck up, the last place you want to do it is in front of a hometown crowd.

Daithi was expected to bring something else to the party: a whiff of sex appeal.

I've consulted a number of women on this matter and, with all due respect to Daithi's predecessors in the job, between them they have the collective sex appeal of a box of Weetabix.

Daithi struck the right balance between flirtatiousness and gentlemanly behaviour -- the odd peck on the cheek here, a little bit of a dance there and the occasional gentle, steadying arm around a Rose's waist.

For a few minutes at the start, it seemed the pressure might be getting to him. He strode on confidently enough, arms aloft as if waiting to be embraced. Or crucified.

But his opening monologue, which was obviously scrolling up on an autocue, was a bit wooden and nervous.

As the evening wore on he loosened up, relaxed and got into the groove (I suspect Daithi is at his best when being himself: charming, cheeky and with a healthy taste for self-deprecation).

"Let's rock and roll!" he said, kicking proceedings off.

In a curious way, he's the most modern host the Rose of Tralee has ever had, yet, thanks to his Kerry heritage, the most traditional. It's a good mix and I imagine the gig is his for as long as he wants it.

But that doesn't mean I'll be tuning in tonight for three more hours of punishment.


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