Cheers and tears as Kirsten takes the title in Tralee
She was one of the red hot favourites from the get-go, so it was no great surprise when Kirsten Mate Maher was crowned the 2018 International Rose of Tralee last night.
The Waterford Rose, who works in a boutique in the city, took the crown from last year's Offaly Rose Dr Jennifer Byrne.
Kirsten (21) was hoping to study at WIT next month.
"I'm speechless. I just want to say a huge thank you to all the girls in front of me and behind me," she said.
Kirsten, who was overwhelmed with tears of joy, is the third Waterford representative to be name the Rose of Tralee
Jennifer handed over more than just her Rose of Tralee crown last night - she imparted some advice too.
She believed this year's festival had surpassed itself, proving it was a brilliant platform for starting a national discussion.
Race, divorce and childhood obesity were among serious issues touched on during the show.
"I think everyone will agree with me that the Rose of Tralee has moved to a whole new level. On Monday night there were things represented that probably weren't previously," said Jennifer.
For her, it was keeping her friends and family involved in everything she did that made her year as the Rose so special.
She said that if she had one piece of advice for her successor, it would be to "always involve your nearest and dearest".
She revealed this was a piece of advice she received during her reign as Rose, and definitely some wisdom she would pass on to the next Rose.
"I got so many opportunities around Ireland and all around the world, so those words stayed with me in all the hotels," she said.
The bottom line for the Offaly woman was: "Don't go through the whole year by yourself, include those people who are close to you."
Before the result, the front-runners with the bookies were Kirsten, Carlow Rose Shauna Ray Lacey and the Chicago Rose Katie Callahan.
While the first night of the show was jam-packed with quirky moments - everything from jui jitsu to napkin origami and a cow - the festival concluded with a little less of the high-jinks.
Many of the final 14 Roses last night chose to sing a party-piece, while teacher and Galway Rose Deirdre O'Sullivan opted to show off her prowess on the flute.
German Rose Giulia Kearney was worried her voice wouldn't hold up.
"I'm singing but, as you can hear, my voice is leaving me. So I have had to drink a lot of water and tea."