Rose in bloom: Rose of Tralee, Dr Jennifer Byrne

STANDING behind every new Rose of Tralee winner is a supportive sisterhood of former winners stretching back through the years.

Rose in bloom: Rose of Tralee, Dr Jennifer Byrne

STANDING behind every new Rose of Tralee winner is a supportive sisterhood of former winners stretching back through the years.

By Irene Feighan

A network that’s encouraged and promoted by the organisers, immediately after Jennifer Byrne was crowned last August, she was taken to the nearby Rose Hotel to meet former Roses of Tralee winners.

“Some of them gave me really useful pieces of advice — such as enjoy the moment and take it all in.” Soon after she was added to their WhatsApp group. “They are all great role models and all very strong and ambitious women. I’m delighted to have their support,” says the 24-year-old.

It’s been a whirlwind for the trainee GP since August with a string of official engagements and foreign travel

commitments. She has already visited the Hope Foundation projects in Calcutta — “ It really opened my eyes”— and next month she plans to travel to Russia to visit Chernobyl Children International.

Along with the road and air miles, there’s been a personal journey too.

“Pretty much overnight, you end up doing a lot of interviews and I would not have said that many speeches in front of a crowd before. I was surprised by how quickly I adapted. I’m more confident than I thought I was.”

She’s currently sharing an apartment in Galway with two friends, Maria a nurse and Mai, a doctor she met while studying at NUIG.

“I love living with them. We do have good fun.”

Then there’s her boyfriend Dara, also a doctor, who is from Roscommon.

Long-term she would love to return to her homeplace Clonaderig, Co Offaly. But in the meantime life couldn’t be fuller. Along with her GP training, there are the myriad duties that come with the Tralee crown to complete before a new Rose fills her shoes.

 - To apply to be a Rose in 2018, see

What shape are you in?

Relatively good. I signed up for the gym in the new year and so far I’m doing well. I use the treadmill, and follow 30-minute exercise routines with Kayla, an online app. I’m a member of the Galway FC Women’s National League but I’m not able to commit to the matches because there’s so much going on at the weekends with the Rose of Tralee.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I love breakfast and every morning I have porridge with raspberries and blueberries. I also eat lots of vegetables.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

A cup of tea with chocolate — Cadbury’s Mint Crisp. Also, a Chinese takeaway.

What would keep you awake at night?

In general, I’m a very good sleeper. But if I was on call I never really sleep because you have the phone beside you.

How do you relax?

I love walking the Prom in Salthill while listening to music. Soccer. Or, once in a while, I’ll go to the spa. I

recently had a hot-stone back and neck massage. I’d highly recommend it.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Usain Bolt. He’s an incredible athlete; Mary Byrne I met her at TV3 and she was such good craic and fun; Oprah Winfrey, she’s phenomenal.

What’s your favourite smell?

Roses — pun intended. I like the smell of lavender as well. I buy lavender Yankee Candles.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

When I was younger, I used to dislike my freckles. I’m not sure if I have less of them but I kind of like them now. And I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. It’s very long and there’s nothing quick about it. It can take an hour to blow dry and straighten it at home. An upstyle will take even longer.

When is the last time you cried?

I don’t cry very often. [Maybe] if I see something sad on TV or if something is very funny. On the night I won the Rose of Tralee, I was very close to tears but I them held back.

What traits do you least like in others?

When people talk about others behind their backs.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

The fact that I don’t take a lot of time to relax and chill out. I’m always on the go.

Do you pray?

Yes. I don’t go to Mass every weekend. I believe in God — I used to go to Knock with my Granny and to a retreat centre at Our Lady of Clonfert around exam times.

What would cheer up your day?

A laugh with my friends or boyfriend. There’s no better cure than to have a good laugh.

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