RACHEL O’Neill has vowed to represent Limerick with pride, despite missing out on the final of the Rose of Tralee.
There was disappointment on Sunday night when Limerick’s Rose failed to make it through to August’s showpiece event following the regional heats in Portlaoise.
It is now eight years since Limerick had an entrant in the Tralee dome, as Castletroy primary school teacher Rachel, 22, missed out.
She was up against Roses representing 28 counties in Ireland, 13 regions in the USA, four English cities, plus Melbourne, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Melbourne, and Canada.
They were interviewed by presenter Dáithí Ó Sé.
There will be some Limerick representation in the Dome, after Scotland’s Rose, Brid Madigan, who hails from Ballyneety, progressed.
Rachel says despite the setback, she had “the best weekend ever”.
“One of the highlights for me was on our first night, after we went to a nightclub for a dance, we all came back to the lobby of the hotel, all got into our pyjamas, and pizza was ordered for all the girls. It was like a midnight pizza party. It really allowed everyone to bond,” she said.
And the Castletroy College graduate says she has made friends for life following the competition.
“I am delighted for the girls who got through. We will all be there in Tralee in August, cheering them on,” she said.
As for herself, Rachel added: “I am still the Limerick Rose, and I am determined to do Limerick proud. I really want to bring Limerick back, put Limerick on the map and promote Limerick as much as I can. I want to do some fundraising for Pieta House. I have a couple of ideas.”
Denis Griffin, the co-ordinator of the Limerick Rose Centre, says they are very proud of Rachel.
“Naturally we are disappointed, but still very proud of our Rose. From day one, she has been so delighted to wear the Limerick sash. And it means so much to her to represent her county,” he said.
There were mixed emotions for Ballyneety’s Brid Madigan, 24, and also a primary school teacher, working in the Scottish city of Aberdeen. For although she reached the final, she said she will miss many friends she made in the heat.
“There are far too many highlights to possibly pinpoint one, but I would say it would be meting these fantastic girls. I am delighted to be representing them in the final,” she said.
Limerick will definitely be represented in the Dome come next year.
This is because the Rose of Tralee organisers have decided that every representative will go directly to the Kerry town for an extended international festival.