Waterford's Kirsten Mate Maher named 2018 Rose of Tralee

Waterford's Kirsten Mate Maher named 2018 Rose of Tralee

They might have fallen at the final hurdle for an All-Ireland in 2017, but Waterford’s Kirsten Mate Maher was crowned the Rose of Tralee for 2018.

One of the favourites to win the crown, Kirsten was nonetheless lost for words when her name was called.

"I'm speechless, oh my God," she said.

"I just want to say a massive thank you to these girls standing behind me and in front of me.

"I am overwhelmed at the amount of friends that I've just made - they're friends for life."

The 21-year-old student is the first woman of colour to win the annual competition.

The Rose of Tralee is always a bit of a marathon. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea but it’s as Irish as rain. Like proper tea and Taytos, it’s the type of thing you miss when you’re away from home. It’s a reminder of a simpler Ireland, one that doesn’t exist, but that many people wish did.

However, recent years have shown that the competition has moved with the times and reflects a more modern view of Ireland and of Irish women. This year has been no different.

Monday night’s standout Rose was Carlow’s Shauna Ray Lacey, a bookie with a baby, whose parents had both been heroin addicts. Her story was fascinating and unlikely to be one you’d have heard in Rose of Tralee’s of years gone by.

Two years ago, Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins blazed a trail by calling for a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment — a pretty ballsy move by Rose of Tralee’s standards.

However, despite all the high-brow talk of a changing competition for a changing Ireland, ultimately many of us tune in for the somewhat cringe-worthy banter that comes with Daithí Ó Sé interviewing a succession of Rose’s for hours on end.

It came thick and fast on day two of the competition. Nothing tells you more about how far the Rose of Tralee has blasted into the 21st century as anecdotes about nudity and coin swallowing.

First out of the traps was Mayo Rose Rachel Gibbons. From the small but famous village of Carnacon — which produced the legendary Cora Staunton for you GAA fans — Rachel said where she grew up was so remote that if you had come up the boithrín to her house, you were probably lost.

As a result, things like blinds and curtains weren’t used very often. This led to a post-shower incident where the local postman saw poor ould Rachel as naked as “the day I was born”. Full blown on nudity on the Rose of Tralee — changed times indeed.

The Perth Rose Laura Cannon from Donegal gave us one of the anecdotes of the night and one of the

Dáithí quotes for the ages.

After learning about how she met her boyfriend Charlie and that there are nine GAA clubs in Perth, we also learned about a coin swallowing incident as a child. All’s well that ends well, however, as the offending coin came out the way we expected after nine days.

For Dáithí, that’s the way to keep a man.

“He has a Rose that poops money, he’s going nowhere,” he said. And so said all of us.

We had a Rose who worked for Obama, a Rose who Irish danced to R and B star Usher, a Rose who moved to become an actor in Hollywood, Dad’s crying, mothers crying, escorts looking both embarrassed and frightened. We had Dáithí being Dáithí. Even Jerry Springer made an appearance via video link.

Slag it all you want but deep down, like proper tea and Tayto’s, you know you love it.

Additional reporting by Digital Desk

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