Morning after the night before for the new Rose of Tralee

Philadelphia Rose lives up to her favourites’ tag by becoming the 56th Rose of Tralee

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. Video: Ronan McGreevy


It is the morning after the night before in Tralee and the person with the clearest head is the one who could be excused for having the biggest party.

By 8am yesterday the 56th Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh (27) was already in her finery and ready to face her first round of engagements and media interviews.

Being a Pioneer means there was no temptation to celebrate her success the old-fashioned Irish way.

Her first media interview was on a Ferris wheel at 8.30am, an appropriate place given that her life for the next year as the Rose of Tralee will be an endless whirl.

Even before she went on stage second to last in the Dome, online bookmakers were quoting the Philadelphia Rose at practically unbackable odds of 2/5 for the title of Rose of Tralee.

In retrospect though, she was the obvious favourite and was probably alone in being “absolutely shocked” when presenter Dáithí Ó Sé called her name.

Veteran Rose watchers remarked at how serene she had been all week, not easy given the punishing schedule which all the Roses have to adhere to. The festival is not a beauty competition, or so we are told, but her obvious good looks would have done her no harm either.

Transatlantic tones

Her transatlantic accent reflects her life to date. She was born in Boston, grew up in Shrule, Co Mayo, and moved to New York.

Such an upbringing breeds resilience and she moved to Philadelphia without knowing anyone there three years ago, got connected to the Irish community and became Philadelphia Rose before her parents in Ireland even knew she was in the competition. “There’s plenty of other cases like me out there,” she said.

She is a doughty defender of the festival against all its detractors including most recently Jenni Murray on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour who described it as “twee”, Instead, Ms Walsh wants more “modern and educated women” to be involved in the Rose of Tralee.

She is also single. What would she look for in a potential partner? “My father has very high ambitions for whoever is stepping in. If they can pass the mother and father test, they might stand a chance.”