Trinity graduate and scholar looks forward to showing off her tiara


IN THE old days, winning Roses used to be photographed lounging in their hotel bed next morning balancing a tray of sausages and rashers, hair in curlers.

Kildare-born Charmaine Kenny (26), this year’s Rose of Tralee, had a day’s work done by 10am yesterday.

In her short red gúna and big lovely smile, she posed for the cameras in a series of rose beds in the town park, beside the new Rose of Tralee statue, gamely kicking her legs on a playground swing, standing on the wall of a fountain while the rain pelted down, with sponsors, with more sponsors, in the arms of her shattered-looking escort, with a stray passing star-struck child in a Kerry shirt (that one was unscheduled). You get the picture.

Everyone wants a petal from the new Rose. “I feel like a party pooper saying I slept for an hour last night,” she confessed.

That would be, she told us, because Alice O’Sullivan, the winner of the first Rose of Tralee in 1959 and a judge this year, had not slept at all – and had already been out for a 3km walk.

“I would have been one of the quieter Roses, I wouldn’t have been vying for the microphone at the top of the bus when we’re having our sing-songs.”

Quiet or not, Kenny came out from under the radar when she appeared in the dome, impressing and charming everyone with her unpretentious attitude, individuality and her evident range of abilities, not least as a quirky weathergirl.

Kenny has just given up her job in London as a marketing consultant, so she has “one foot in London and the other in Ireland right now”. She’s smart.

She studied at Trinity College Dublin, where she did her undergraduate studies in management science and information systems. She also has a masters in economics and was awarded Trinity’s prestigious academic title of “Scholar”.

When her year as Rose ends, she’s hoping to go out on her own, doing something along the lines of economic entrepreneurship.

We always hear that the choice of Rose is based on the judges’ observations during the week, not just on the six or seven brief minutes on stage that the public witnesses.

So what kind of things do the judges ask? “One of them was a very philosophical question: ‘Can money buy love?’” Another involved a topic you’re unlikely to hear discussed live on air during the gentle grilling the Roses get in the dome. “They asked if we thought marijuana should be legalised.”

The new Rose wasn’t sure if she would be getting to keep her shiny new tiara, or if it’s just on loan for the year, but she was sure of one thing. No matter how many people want a piece of her right now, before the week is out, she is going to Mullingar, Co Westmeath, to show her new crown to her grandmother, Teresa Kenny, who was too ill to come to see her win in Tralee.