CASTLETROY’S Rachel O’Neill has been picked as Limerick Rose of Tralee for 2015 and is relishing the prospect of representing her county.
The primary school teacher - a recent graduate from MIC who was sponsored by Matthew Stephens Jewellers - pipped 34 other contestants for the right to wear the sash for Limerick following a selection event held over two nights at the weekend.
Reacting to being chosen, Rachel said she was “still shaking, I can’t stop crying - I am so shocked but I am so happy, I can’t believe it”.
“It means so much, I just can’t wait to represent Limerick as a city and county.”
Ms O’Neill said she had been “inspired” to enter following the example set by outgoing Rose Dawn Ryan.
“Just seeing Dawn Ryan and all the work she did in the last year,really inspired me and it was brilliant the work that she did with the Limerick Rose Centre so I wanted to get on board.”
Asked about the prospect of being Rose for the next year and attempting to be the first from Limerick to make it to Tralee since 2007, she said: “Can’t wait - I just want to do everything that they throw at me, so bring it on!”
Ms O’Neill will now face competition both nationally and internationally at the upcoming Regional finals in Portlaoise on the June Bank Holiday Weekend, with an estimated one in four chance of being selected.
Limerick Rose centre co-ordinator Denis Griffin said the “atmosphere was electric” at the selection event in the Radisson Blu where 35 hopefuls vied for selection - up from 22 last year, resulting in the event being held over two nights on Friday and Saturday.
“We are absolutely thrilled with the success of this year’s event. All the Rose entrants were of extremely high calibre and Rachel will make a superb ambassador for Limerick,” he added.
Limerick Rose judges Elaine Rael - 2010 Dubai Rose - Sharon Kennedy - 2008 Limerick Rose - and Eoin Chambers, Duty Manager at the Radisson Blu, assessed each entrant and selected the winner.
Deputy Mayor Cllr Marian Hurley and Limerick Roses from previous years attended the event.
Meelick woman Dawn Ryan, a care worker with Enable Ireland in Mungret, was Limerick’s Rose last year, and although she didn’t make it through the Regional finals in Portlaoise last June, she has said that her year as the county representative had been “unforgettable”.
“The people I have met, the causes I have helped and the friends I have made, have made this the most rewarding experience you can imagine and I would encourage any girl to get involved,” said Dawn, who travelled to Belarus with Adi Roches’s Chernobyl Children’s Trust in her capacity as Rose.
Limerick’s Rose for 2015 has approximately a one in four chance of being selected, according to Mr Griffin. 23 Roses were selected to go through to the Dome out of 61 Roses at the Regional finals last year, drawn from all parts of the Ireland and the world. Kerry, Dublin and Cork are all afforded automatic entry to the festival.
Mr Griffin said that it was “the fairest system that can be developed”.