New Limerick Rose Kayleigh Maher Picture: Michael Cowhey
THE SMALL, pastoral parish of Kilcornan is in celebratory mood this week, as one of its very own will represent Limerick at the prestigious Rose of Tralee festival this August.
NUIG student Kayleigh Maher, 23, was one of 14 local ladies who took to the stage last Saturday night, at Bunratty Castle Hotel, in a bid to become the next Limerick Rose.
The Kilcornan native recalled feeling “so surprised” and “delighted” when her name was called out.
“Before the winner was announced, I wasn’t even thinking about myself. I was thinking: ‘Which one of the girls is going to get it?’ I did not think that I was going to get it, so surprised.”
Kayleigh succeeds last year’s Limerick Rose, Marie Hennessy and has secured her place in the famous dome in Tralee, alongside 64 national and international Roses.
Ms Maher, a student teacher on placement at Crescent College Comprehensive, attended Kilcornan national school, Shountrade national school in Adare, and Laurel Hill Secondary School. She graduated from Mary Immaculate College with a BA in English and Media, before undertaking an MA in Education.
Described by many as “determined and driven”, Kayleigh wishes to pursue a career in English teaching, after teaching children in Vietnam last sum-mer. Kayleigh, daughter of John and Una, is the youngest of three siblings. She has two brothers; father-of-three Shane, and Ruairi.
And behind every success story is a bit of drama, as for two weeks, Kayleigh was unable to find the perfect outfit.
The wardrobe nightmare began three weeks ago, she said, when a dress she purchased online wasn’t working out.
After purchasing a skirt in Brown Thomas, she was unable to find a matching top until last Wednesday morning.
When she discovered that the top was a size too big, she turned to her mother’s friend Anne Gleeson in Pallaskenry to help resize the top.
The dilemma was compounded even more, as she had committed to see Ed Sheeran perform in Dublin the following day, and was not going to be back in Limerick until Friday evening.
Anne came to the rescue and texted Kayleigh on Thursday morning, saying that she had fixed the top.
“But I think I was very calm at the end, because I was getting excited about Ed Sheeran!” she enthused.
Meanwhile, her mum Una was “freaking out”.
“There were parcels arriving in the house for two weeks, all from different online shops, just to try and find the right outfit!” she laughed.
The outcome was a clear success, as Kayleigh’s stylish attire matched a warm personality that resonated well with the judges, who had been involved with the Tralee festival in previous years.
Her proud mum said that they are “still reeling in from the shock” and are getting great support from the parish.
“It is a tremendous experience, and she is very lucky to have this opportunity. And we are all very proud of her,” she added.
Kayleigh commended the other 13 contestants, with whom she toured around the city and county as part of the Limerick Rose preparations.
“We are all best friends, and we only know each other three weeks, and all of a sudden, it feels like we know each other three years. It is very cliché, but it is so true.”
Gillian Downes, chairperson of Kilcornan Community Council, said that Kayleigh’s success has put the parish “on the map”, and that they intend to celebrate her selection in the coming weeks.
“We were absolutely delighted when we heard that she had won. It is a great boost to the place. The Mahers are a big family and they do a lot for the community, and they are involved with a lot in the parish.
“So, it is great to have a local girl as the new Rose. It wasn’t a surprise to know that she had won. Kayleigh is very independent, she is driven and she knows what she wants. She is a great, and she is determined.”
Cllr Emmett O’Brien said: “I wish to congratulate Kayleigh on her great achievement. It's a very proud occasion for her and her family and I know she will represent Kilcornan and Limerick greatly.”
Kayleigh was sponsored by her godafther Jim O’Reilly’s business, FundAssist.
The new Clare Rose is Aoife Murphy, of Sixmilebridge, a recent graduate of University of Limerick.