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Our new Oz Rose Tara can't wait to cheer on Irish boys

AUSTRALIA'S 'Lady in Red' Tara Talbot (27) walked home with the big prize from the Rose of Tralee last night.

But the bookies were the big losers -- after the odds-on favourite cost them more than €50,000.

The Festival Dome erupted with cheers after the Queensland Rose's name was called out shortly after 11pm.

She may not have been able to count to 10 in Filipino, as she claimed during her interview with Daithi O Se, but it didn't stop her charming the judges.

"I'm totally shell-shocked, I just can't believe it," she said.

The secondary school teacher revealed how her big dream now is to meet Brian O'Driscoll and the boys in green at the World Cup 2011 in New Zealand next month.

When the Irish-Australian beauty was asked who she was going to be cheering on, she replied: "It's going to have to be Ireland now.

"I had my Wallabies' jersey but it's not going to happen now.

"I'm heading back under in two weeks time so I might have to meet the Irish team now and give them a little encouragement."

But unfortunately for fans of the stunning winner, who performed Mary Black's Katie, she's a taken lady.


Thanks to modern technology, her boyfriend, Fionan Henry, from Rathfarnham, watched her big win online from his base in Australia.

The sports therapist, who she has been dating for more than two years, couldn't get time off work to attend the festival but made sure to keep check of her progress.

"Fionan is wonderfully supportive and he doesn't need to be next to me to show that support. I don't know, I'm sure he watched it online," she said.

The Brisbane beauty, whose mum comes from the Philippines and her dad from Dublin, was joined at the event by her delighted mum Carmencita and her aunt Cathy Crinigan -- winning beauty pageants is obviously in Tara's blood as Cathy also represented Ireland in an international competition in 1979.

Tara said she "didn't expect" the win. "When I looked around the room in rehearsals today, every single girl there could have won it. They were extraordinary women and I'm extremely proud to represent them," she said.

"It's been phenomenal, the best week of my life. I've been running on about three hours' sleep every night, so that's been interesting to say the least." Some 14 Roses took to the stage for the final night of the contest.

Meanwhile, RTE has insisted it is "happy" with the viewing figures for the show, despite the drop in viewers.

Last year saw an average of 601,000 people tune in to see the second half of the festival on the opening night. This compared with 705,000 viewers for the same segment in 2010.

"There was a bit of a drop on average viewership for last year but to be honest, we expected that," said an RTE spokeswoman.