Friday 21 October 2016

Newly crowned Rose of Tralee: 'I've experienced the lowest of lows and this is just the highest of highs'

2015's Rose of Tralee Elysha Brennan
2015's Rose of Tralee Elysha Brennan
The Meath Rose Elysha Brennan who became the 2015 Rose of Tralee at the Rose of Tralee International festival.

Meath Rose Elysha Brennan said she never had "such big shoes to fill" as she was crowned the 2015 Rose of Tralee.

The 22-year-old has conquered cancer, and is now a medical student at the Royal College of Surgeons.

She paid tribute to her fellow Roses: "I have never been surrounded by such inspirational, moving, strong, driven, focused, ambitious, wonderful, spectacular, young ladies... I am in such good company, I thank you so much and I hope to do the Rose of Tralee proud.

"I have the biggest shoes I've ever known to fill after Maria Walsh," she said, in reference to last year's winner who became the first openly gay woman to wear the crown.

Elysha emerged as an early favourite last week and was 3/1 favourite before the announcement was made last night.

She was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma weeks before her repeat Leaving Cert began but has been in remission for the last two years.

She said: "I suppose I've experienced the lowest of lows and this is just the highest of highs.

"The Rose of Tralee was on the bucket list but to become a rose was my Rose of Tralee and this has just surpassed any sort of dream or hopes or aspirations I've ever had.

"I went into this looking at it as an experience and it has certainly been the best experience of my life."

She is the first Meath Rose to win the title and the first representing an Irish county to be crowned Rose in seven years.

Earlier, the Tralee stage had an eclectic mix of characters and talents on show - soccer star Leandro Bacuna and crooner and new granddad Daniel O'Donnell both made an appearance.

Germany Rose and Aston Villa fanatic Roisin Ni Mhathuna was gobsmacked, on top of being presented with a replica FA Cup, when Bacuna sent a video message.

Abu Dhabi Rose Deirdre Ward, a 27-year-old nurse from Co Donegal, fought back tears on stage. For her, it was an emotional occasion as she knew her mother Anna would have loved to have seen her in the Dome.

She recited a poem she composed herself called 'Tough Cookie' in memory of her mother, who passed away in January last year.

Chicago Rose Maeve McSweeney's mother made all her headpieces for the festival. She performed 'Song for Ireland' as her party piece. She told presenter Dáithí O Sé all the other Roses were looking for a man for her, but so far with no success.

Dublin Rose Aisling Finnegan had to fight off competition for the limelight - from her dad Micheal.

The Rathcoole beauty revealed how her dad is bidding for the title of 'Rose Dad' and even blagged his way onto the Rose bus during the festival.

An early-morning frog in her throat caused concern for Country and Western singer Jenny Hanlon, representing Louth, who at 19 was the second youngest Rose.

New York Rose Sophie Colgan has something in common with Oprah Winfrey. Both were dressed by designer Don O'Neill from Ballyheigue in Co Kerry.

Anne Madigan, mother of the Scotland Rose Brid, was also in for a surprise when the Garda Band played her 'Happy Birthday'.

Shannon Kelehan-Pierson was the first mermaid and South Carolina Rose to enter the pageant.

She works as a mermaid in a local aquarium while studying for a degree in Marine Science at the Coastal Carolina University.

The job involves doing an eight-minute diving show in a giant tank while holding her breath. But the audience had to make do with photographs of the feat.

"I couldn't bring my mermaid's tail because it's so heavy," she said. "My luggage would have been so overweight, I wouldn't have been able to bring any clothes."

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