New Orleans Rose Molly Molloy Gambel’s college sweetheart, Kyle Catlett, popped the question during the first of two shows to decide who is named the competition’s 2013 winner.
In a move that was part brave, part crazy, the 23-year-old stepped out in front of a television audience of more than 500,000 people and thousands more in the festival’s dome to ask his girlfriend of 18 months for her hand in marriage.
After a momentary reaction of “no, no, no!” that caused more than a few RTÉ hearts backstage to skip a beat — and led the Mardi Gras clown-dressed Dáithí Ó Sé to fear the risk of car-crash TV — the University of Alabama graduate’s very own Mary O’Connor eventually said “yes”.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner moments later, the still-shocked bride-to-be said the initial delay was because of her complete surprise at the question. “The tears were flowing, I had no idea whatsoever,” she declared.
The proposal, the first engagement ever to take place during a Rose of Tralee broadcast, follows the 1993 engagement of another New Orleans Rose whose boyfriend popped the question behind the scenes.
However, while the latest good news is likely to go down as one of the most memorable scenes in the festival’s history, this year’s couple have a less than romantic first date to thank for helping it to happen.
After breaking his leg riding a mechanical bull in early 2012, Kyle called Molly — whom he had met just days earlier — asking if she could bring him to the nearest hospital emergency department.
A first date like that almost demands an over-the-top gesture like last night.