Gillian Beasley all set to represent ICA at Cork heats of Rose of Tralee

Contestants in the Cork Federation ICA, Cailin selection held at the Oriel House hotel, Ballincollig, from left, Yvonne Hurley, Drimoleague; Lornah Morrissey, Midleton; Gillian Beasley, Ballinora (winner); Niamh Casey, Grenagh; Olivia Keohane, Dunderrow; Amy Turpin, last years winner; Maria Sheehan, Goleen; Caron O'Reilly, Ballinspittle and Anna Hegarty, Shanagarry. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Gillian Beasley, competing for Ballinora Guild, won the Cailín contest last Saturday night and now goes forward to represent ICA in the Cork heat of the Rose of Tralee this summer.

“Happy out” is how the 25-year-old youth worker described herself on Monday morning as she contemplated her weekend win. Just a week earlier, she’d got a phone call from Cecily Lyons of Ballinora Guild asking her if she’d like to enter the Cailín contest.

“She asked if I’d do her a favour. I thought it was to do photos for the event — I’ve done photos before for ICA. I kind of laughed first when I heard because this wouldn’t normally be my thing. I’m into the outdoors, going hiking and being up on mountains.”

Cecily gave Gillian a few days to think about it and, after chatting with friends and her mum, Gillian decided to go for it. “Just for the fun of it — I never thought I’d win.”

Competing against seven other cailíní — representing Ballinspittle, Drimoleague, Dunderrow, Goleen, Grenagh, Shanagarry and Midleton Guilds — Gillian’s party piece was Sharon Shannon’s ‘The Blackbird’, which she played on concertina. As a scout leader in Ballinora, she regularly takes youngsters up the mountains and she told the gathering about this on Saturday.

I’ve taken the scouts everywhere from Malta to Roscommon, from Cambridge to Kerry. We climbed Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, three years ago. I was just myself on stage,” says Gillian, who wore the bridesmaid’s dress she’d worn for her sister’s wedding last month.

Gillian has strong ICA links — her mum, Mary, is a former Ballinora ICA member and was at various times the guild’s president, secretary and treasurer. “As a child, if there was no childminder at home, I was pulled along to craft nights and dance evenings. Ballinora ICA holds an annual fashion show, a fundraiser for charity, and I modelled in it when I was about 10 and again at 16.”

Gillian Beasley, Ballinora, winner of the Cork Cailín selection held at the Oriel House hotel, Ballincollig, Co Cork. Picture: Eddie O’Hare

She might well become an ICA member some day (“I’m sure they’ll rope me in at some stage”) but for now Gillian is just delighted to be representing Ballinora and Cork ICA in the Rose of Tralee. Compère for Saturday’s event, held in Oriel House, Ballincollig, was retired schoolteacher Gerry Kelly. Music was by Douglas ICA Choir and by Pat Fitzgerald.

Ena Howell, who spearheaded the Cailín contest idea, now in its second year, says Gillian will “be a great ambassador for ICA”.

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