All’s fair in Tralee war of the Roses

MORE than one million people will have watched 30 girls from across the globe face the camera in pursuit of their dream of being named tonight as the 2006 Rose of Tralee.

Besides the one million Irish viewers, RTÉ is beaming footage across the world via its website.

But only one girl will grab the glory when compere Ray D’Arcy opens his golden envelope just after 11pm tonight to declare the winner.

Last night, it was the turn of the roses to do the judging when they announced which of the 30 escorts was the top man in Tralee during the contest.

Their vote went to Co Clare engineer Ciarán O’Connell, 23. He is escorting South Australia Rose Niamh O’Reilly.

Ciarán, in his second year as an escort, said: “I am really enjoying being an escort but I cant wait to find out who is crowned Rose of Tralee.”

Ciarán picked up a collection of Newbridge Silverware, a trophy and a cheque for €1,000.

Tonight it will be the turn of the roses to find out who will take the glory.

Last year’s Rose of Tralee Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, from Co Mayo, vividly remembers Ray D’Arcy declaring her the winner.

She told the Irish Examiner: “It was a complete surprise. I was in shock for quite a long time.

“All the girls came to hug me as you need the support of your mates. It was just a whirlwind for the whole evening.

“You don’t know who’s going to win — only the judges and Ray D’Arcy know beforehand.”

As Aoibhinn gets ready to hand over her crown tonight she still knows she has a role to play — helping the new Rose of Tralee adjust to life as a star.

Her key advice to her successor is to enjoy the year as an ambassador for the festival and for Ireland.

She said: “I’d say just make it your own and enjoy every minute of it because the year really does fly by, I can tell you.”

“For my part it’s really sad closing this chapter of my life but the book still goes on. The new Rose of Tralee will have my mobile to call anytime she needs me.”

Last night, the packed festival dome saw host D’Arcy introduce the first 15 hopefuls on stage — with a few surprising results.

Dubai Rose Maria Curtin, originally from Newmarket, Co Cork, was among those chosen to perform a song — and chose to sing in Arabic instead of “as Gaeilge”.

San Francisco Rose Aislin Roche had the audience in stitches when she revealed she once starred in a movie with suave actor Hugh Grant and off set gave him a wedgie during a group hug with other actors in the movie.

In the audience nervous mothers and fathers were joined by past Roses of Tralee in roaring on the hopefuls as they came on stage.

Western Australia’s Perth Rose Aisling Reid, who is originally from Wexford, has brought a 40-strong gang of family and well-wishers.

Her sister Siobhan said: “It’s very exciting and nervous — and especially for an ex-patriate, the Rose of Tralee is a very big deal.”

Come 11.15pm tonight, the winner will be declared and a massive party will erupt and carry on into the wee hours of tomorrow.

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