Philadelphia Rose crowned 2014 Rose of Tralee

Native of Boston who moved to Mayo, Maria Walsh ‘absolutely shocked’ by the result

Philadelphia Maria Walsh: the winning Rose at the 2014 Rose of Tralee International Festival. Photograph:Domnick Walsh

Philadelphia Maria Walsh: the winning Rose at the 2014 Rose of Tralee International Festival. Photograph:Domnick Walsh


Philadelphia Rose Maria Walsh was last night crowned as the 2014 Rose of Tralee.

A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Ms Walsh moved to the south Mayo village of Shrule in 1994.

Her father Vincent is from Carravilla Roundfort Co Mayo but lived in Boston for a number of years. Her mother was born in Boston but moved to Leitir Mor in Connemara when she was seven and returned to Boston in her early twenties.

Speaking after host Daithi Ó Sé made the announcement, Ms Walsh said she was “absolutely shocked” by the result. The Philadelphia Rose had however been the overwhelming favourite with the bookies last night, with Paddy Power offering odds of just 2/5 for her to take victory.

She studied journalism and visual media in Griffith College Dublin and graduated in 2009. She is a studio manager for Anthropologie, a clothing and lifestyle brand, as well as “an avid Gaelic player and supporter” with the Notre Dames in Philadelphia.

She was second last to go on. Ms Walsh must be the first tattooed Rose. She has three small ladybird tattoo behind her left ear in memory of her 19-year-old cousin Teresa Molloy who was killed in a car crash on the N17 in Co Galway in November 2009.

Her message of how the tragedy helped her to cope with life may have resonated with the judges. She also spoke of being a pioneer and how it is hard for Americans to comprehend that there are Irish people who do not drink.

The judges looked for “nuances” according to the chair of the judging panel Mary Kennedy which hardly illuminates the criteria used in selection.

She praised the standard of Roses this year as “extremely high”.

“The calibre of women is astounding. They are a wonderful representation of the modern Irish women,” she said.

The remaining 14 Roses participated in last night’s final selection. The Donegal Rose Tamara Payne (19), the youngest participant, spoke of her menagerie of animals at home and read a poem she composed for a friend who had died.

Home-schooled Arizona Rose Sarah Hinds talked about her strong religious faith and said she could not marry a man who did not share it.

Emotion and tears were provided by the Dallas Rose Cyndi Crowell who grew up in an abusive home and praised her mother’s resilience and strength.

Cork Rose Anna Geary (27) spoke of her 20 All-Ireland camogie medals, including three senior medals.

She pronounced herself “far too young to get married” though she and her boyfriend are together five and a half years.

The Rose of Tralee remains a perennial ratings winner for RTÉ but numbers watching this year’s pageant were down on last year.

An average of 426,500 viewers watched the first instalment on Monday night of the international final from the Dome in Tralee on Monday night, down nearly 100,000 on the 522,600 who watched in 2013.

However, though there was an exceptional spike last year to watch the live-on-air marriage proposal. There was an increase of 14 per cent in younger viewers between the ages of 14 and 34 this year.

Monday night’s instalment included an admission by the Darwin Rose, Natalie Kelly, that her mother, Hazel Carroll Kelly was kicked out of the Cork heats in 1991 because she was a single mother.

Natalie was three-years-old at the time.

The ruling on allowing single mothers to participate in the competition were only recently changed in 2008.

Another feature of the night was a comic turn from the North Carolina Rose, Nancy Boyce, who described herself as a “perfectly refined southern belle, the bigger the hair, the closer to Jesus.”