The names of the 16 finalists were announced at an event in The Dome last night, hosted by RTÉ’s Marty Morrissey.
The remaining 48 will learn of their fate privately tomorrow, when they will find out the next 16 to go through and those whose Rose journey has ended.
Festival organisers have conceded lessons were learned from last year when the young women were split into two groups and found out if they had got through to the live interviews in the full glare of the TV cameras.
If there were any nerves or trepidation about what was to unfold later that evening, the 64 Roses were showing no signs of it as they enjoyed the sights of The Kingdom.
For Cork Rose, Aishling O’Connor from Rostellan, it was her first time to visit Dingle and West Kerry.
“I was never in Dingle before so I was delighted when I heard we were coming here as I have been to Kenmare and Killarney,” the 27-year-old business analyst with Apple revealed.
One of four girls who share the same name from this year’s crop, she distinguishes herself from the others by spelling her name with an ‘h’.
She also revealed she has always wanted to take part: “I just love the Rose of Tralee and I’ve always wanted to do it so I just filled out the application and here I am.”
She added it had been a particularly tough year to get through as there were 52 competing for the opportunity at the Cork selection, the biggest ever.
Representing Kilkenny, Tara Roche describes her experience so far as “magical” and was not bothered by what the outcome would be later on. “I think we’ve all become so close already that we’ll only be happy for each other and the 16 who are through tonight,” the 24-year-old veterinary nurse said.
At 21, Laoise O’Shaughnessy, the Newcastle Rose, is one of the youngest in this year’s competition. Originally from Roscommon town, Laoise is in the final year of her Masters in Pharmacy at the University of Sunderland and said she wasn’t one bit nervous about the selection either: “I’m really just enjoying the whole experience and I’m not at all nervous, just excited for everyone.”
The 2012 Rose, Nicola McEvoy, is back in Tralee again but this time as a judge. The secondary school teacher, who represented Luxemburg four years ago, has just moved back to her native Cork to take up a teaching post at a new Educate Together School in the city.
“It’s nice to be on the other side and get the whole experience,” she said.
Fellow judge, Orla Tobin, who represented Dublin and was the 2003 Rose of Tralee, is also back in Kerry as a judge this year.
It’s been 14 years since Orla wore the crown and since then she’s had four children ranging in ages from eight to one — three future Roses and one future Escort, she jokes.
Reliving her Rose experience was Louise Thompson, a native of Dún Chaoin, who represented South Australia in 2013. Louise brought daughters, Siún, 2, and Ellie, six months, to meet the Roses at the Blasket Centre, their first port of call on their West Kerry tour that also included a visit to Louis Mulcahy Pottery, Oceanworld Aquarium and of course, Fungie.
Also back again this year is Mary Hickey from Rathmore, who was the Kerry Rose in 2014 and remains close friends with her sister Roses. “I’m privileged to be part of the chaperone team again this year,” Mary said.