‘I wanted to be a Rose longer than I wanted to be a doctor’

Newly crowned Rose of Tralee Jennifer Byrne wanted to become a Rose longer than she wanted to be a doctor.

‘I wanted to be a Rose longer than I wanted to be a doctor’

The junior doctor at the emergency department of Galway University Hospital revealed that a trip to the festival, when she was aged 12, sealed her fate and, ever since, she has wanted to take part in the festival.

“I just wanted to be a Rose. I never dreamed I’d be the Rose of Tralee. It was even surreal for me to be the Offaly Rose,” the 24-year-old told the Irish Examiner.

“I decided to go for medicine, if I got enough points in my Leaving Cert, in transition year, after doing three different work experiences; in an accountancy firm, in a vet’s, and a placement at Portiuncula Hospital.”

Breaking from tradition, Jennifer chose a magenta jumpsuit — made by dressmaker Geraldine O’Meara of Crinkle, Co Offaly — for the morning-after photo-shoot at the rose garden in Tralee town park. Standing 5’ 11”, Jennifer paired her outfit with a dusk pink belt and high heels. She designed it with her mother, as well as a favourite outfit she had previously worn at the day parade during the festival.

Whether she will take a break from her medical career to concentrate on her Rose duties is up in the air.

“I actually haven’t had a second to think about it, yet, I’m just living in the moment and enjoying it. I’ll discuss it with my family, have a think about it and let it all sink in and I’ll see then,” she said.

Olympic athlete and president of the International Association of Athletics Federations Sebastian Coe met Rose of Tralee Dr Jennifer Byrne at the Killarney Races yesterday. Picture: Don MacMonagle
Olympic athlete and president of the International Association of Athletics Federations Sebastian Coe met Rose of Tralee Dr Jennifer Byrne at the Killarney Races yesterday. Picture: Don MacMonagle

However, the former soccer international said she will use her time as the Rose of Tralee to encourage more girls and women to take part in sport.

She also wants to promote women’s health, an area she is also passionate about, in her work as a doctor.

She said she had no idea why the judges chose her, the first Offaly Rose to win the title, but she hopes to do them, the people of Tralee, and her sister Roses proud.

“I suppose, it’s because I’m from a very rural area, a typical young Irish girl into Irish dancing and Gaelic football and I hope to be a really good role model for people to promote health and I’d love to see young women continue to play sport.

“Maybe they picked me because they thought I had good qualities to do that,” she added.

Prior to Tuesday night’s TV show, Jennifer happened to be sitting next to the 2016 Rose Maggie McEldowney having her hair and makeup done and asked for her advice as to what she should wear after the show.

“I was just wondering if people changed into casual clothes and then I thought, why am I asking her, sure she was the Rose of Tralee.

“When I came off stage [on Tuesday] she said she couldn’t believe I had asked her that. She’s fantastic. She was a great ambassador and I’ve big boots to fill, but I’ll be asking for plenty of advice,” said Jennifer.

In July, she joined the Western GP Scheme, a four-year programme that specialises in general practice, with the first two years based in a hospital.

“Hopefully, I’ll go on to do some special interests, as well, and I enjoy women’s health and did a module in obstetrics and gynaecology during my internship in Portiuncula and loved it,” she said.

She’s not sure, though, which is more grueling, a 60-hour week in the emergency department or the non-stop activities at the Rose of Tralee.

“They’re both very different,” she said. “At work, I’m in my scrubs with my hair tied up, but the Rose of Tralee is phenomenal and I’ve genuinely enjoyed every minute of it, but all the girls agree, we could do with a certificate to say we survived,” she said, laughing.

Jennifer’s boyfriend Darragh Jones is from Tulsk, Co Roscommon, and is “over the moon delighted” for her.

Jennifer is the oldest in a family of three, with younger brother Terry aged 22 and sister Lorraine aged 19.

She dismisses criticism of the Rose of Tralee as an outdated pageant and feels it’s a relevant festival for young, modern women, who want to enjoy themselves as well.

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