THE ROSE OF TRALEE: Festival of fun, frocks and frolics

The 2014 Rose of Tralee was crowned last night after a nerve-wracking finale to the contest saw six different contenders neck and neck until seconds before the winner was named.

Festival-goers normally clear in their predictions were still tipping almost a fifth of those taking part moments before the show ended.

Chief among them were Philadelphia’s Maria Walsh — whose odds shrank drastically — Abu Dhabi’s Patrice McGillycuddy and Carlow’s Miriam Smyth, with Laois’s Teresa Brennan, Dubai’s Ailis Hughes and Cork camogie star Anna Geary also close by.

Lead judge Mary Kennedy would not divulge who was likely to win on RTÉ Digital’s Live From the Red Room, simply saying “interesting” when the favourite’s names were listed.

And with host Dáithí Ó Sé equally silent on the matter, the closest finish in years left Roses, escorts and more than a few bookies, fretting late into the August night.

This morning, the new Rose of Tralee is waking up to the fact she will spend the next 12 months travelling the world, following in the high-heeled footsteps of 2013’s Texan winner Haley O’Sullivan.

But while the responsibility is daunting, it is certain to prove more predictable than Dáithí Ó Sé’s on-screen antics, which last night helped the Roses shine as a second evening of live TV put them firmly in the spotlight.

The second instalment in the annual festival’s showpiece event kicked off on RTÉ last night with the presenter threatening to prepare a fire engine’s water tank to perform his own personal revved up version of the ice bucket challenge on a fearful Ryan Tubridy, Marty Whelan and Ray D’Arcy.

Perhaps wisely, the trio side-stepped the drenching by undergoing it themselves.

Donegal rose Tamara Payne helped to quickly change the subject as she listed off her de-facto at home zoo — four dogs, two cats, a rabbit, a fish, five sheep and a lamb, if you’re counting.

Western Canada’s Catharine Joyce for once left Dáithí stumped by talking about “umping” (baseball umpire-ing) and a misunderstanding involving her brother’s interest in sheep.

Dubai’s Ailis Hughes turned the conversation back to an altogether more traditional romance by explaining her uncles keep trying to set her up with a farmer, before Cork camogie star Anna Geary was asked — shock, horror — a real question: should Irish sportswomen’s achievements receive more attention? “You have to look at where we have come from. Ultimately we need to be seen as sports people,” the 20-time All-Ireland winner calmly explained.

While the second night was watched by an army of viewers, Monday’s show was significantly down on 2013.

An average of 470,300 watched on Monday, far lower than 2013 (522,600) and 2011 (520,500), but in line with 2012 (470,000).

INTERVIEW: Maria Walsh crowned Rose of Tralee 2014

Stunning Philadelphia rose Maria Walsh has been named the 2014 Rose of Tralee after a late flurry of bets at the bookies saw her surge to the top of the bunch.
 
The beautiful 27-year-old brunette - who was born in Boston, lived in Mayo from the age of seven before returning Stateside to New York and then Philadelphia - wowed judges and TV viewers alike amid one of the tightest finales to the annual contest in recent history.
 
Late into Tuesday night, six roses - including Abu Dhabi, Carlow and Cork - were still being hotly tipped by regular festival goers with a penchant for picking the winner.
 
However, Ms Walsh's charm and modern look complete with three tattoos and a fashion background eventually won the crown, with a flurry of bets seeing her odds shorten drastically in the final two hours of the contest.
 
Speaking to reporters moments after taking the top prize, the 27-year-old said her aim is to get "more young modern, educated and great women" involved in the Rose of Tralee.


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