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Introducing: the 32 contestants in this year’s Rose of Tralee

Which of these 10 Irish and 22 international entrants are ‘lovely and fair’ enough to become the 53rd Rose of Tralee?

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

LIKE IT OR loathe it, it’s that time of year again – time for televisions across the country to be tuned into events at a (sometimes quite literally) rocking Festival Dome in Tralee, Co Kerry.

For some it’s something to be derided – an emblem of an Ireland that has long since passed – but for many the Rose of Tralee is the very archetype of classic Ireland: a beauty pageant that actually isn’t a beauty pageant at all.

This year there are 32 entrants – 10 representing Irish areas, 22 coming from overseas – all vying to follow in a long line and become the 53rd International Rose of Tralee.

So, eyes down – because regardless of whether the Rose of Tralee is your idea of a fun evening in front of the telly, you’re going to have to get used to seeing the following 32 faces for a couple of days:

Introducing: the 32 contestants in this year’s Rose of Tralee
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  • Big Apple – Caitlin McNeill

    A recent pathology graduate who plans on pursuing a Master’s this year, Caitlin (22) has studied Irish step dancing since the age of 10 and has performed around the world – including in Carnegie Hall. She’s also taught dancing in schools, libraries and daycare centres. Family roots in Cork and Mayo. Paddy Power odds: 100/1
  • Boston & New England – Moira Sullivan

    Moira’s time in Ireland won’t end with the Rose – a business consultant, she’s enrolled in a Master’s in Trinity this autumn. The 24-year old is just back from a month volunteering in Kenya, and is an avid equestrian, pianist, left-half forward and amateur fashion designer. She has family links to Cork and Tipperary. Paddy Power odds: 50/1
  • Chicago - Siobhan Carroll

    Siobhan (26) is studying a Masters degree in Education and hopes to work as a student maths teacher. She’s a member of the Irish American Heritage Centre and the Young Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago and is involved in various activities with them. She enjoys shopping, baseball, sean-nós dancing and travel. Her dad, Frankie Carroll, was a member of The Royal Showband with Brendan Boywer. Family links to Westmeath and Galway. Paddy Power odds: 66/1
  • Cork – Kathryn Brennan

    Primary schoolteacher Kathryn plays football and basketball with her local teams in Glanmire, and also trains the basketball team at her school. Competitive from an early age, Kathryn (25) can recite all the street names on the Monopoly Board, ran a leg of the Cork Marathon this year and hopes to complete the half-marathon next year. A self-confessed shopaholic, Kathryn wants to one day open her own boutique. Paddy Power odds: 40/1
  • Derby – Niamh McTague

    Dietitian Niamh, originally from Ballymoe in Co Galway, holds a Master’s in Nutrition/Dietetics and would like to specialize as an oncology dietitian in the future. Niamh, 22, is a member of the Irish Association in Derby and St Barnabas Ladies GAA club in Nottingham. She holds numerous medals for Irish dancing and showjumping and has worked as a care assistant at a holiday centre run by the Irish Wheelchair Association. Paddy Power odds: 66/1
  • Derry – Catherine Feeney

    Physiotherapist Catherine (27) is actively involved with the Foyle Down’s Syndrome Trust and with Habitat for Humanity. She acts as physio for her local GAA team and enjoys music, dancing, yoga and reading. A former accordion and tenor horn player, she has also taken singing lessons with the same teacher who taught Dana. Paddy Power odds: 16/1
  • Donegal – Maria McCole

    Primary teacher Maria (23) holds a degree in Primary School Teaching with Geography from Liverpool Hope University. A veteran gaelic footballer, she has represented Donegal at under-16 level, and also holds many soccer medals. Maria has achieved up to Grade 8 in speech and drama and received a final year Irish Permanent Higher Achiever Award. Paddy Power odds: 20/1
  • Down – Nicole Curran

    Accountancy student Nicole attends John Moore’s University in Liverpool but is currently on a year’s placement with Norbrook Laboratories in Newry. Nicole (22) has represented her county at camogie and volunteers with Volunteer Now and with the Catholic Guides of Ireland in her local area. She regularly sings at weddings and other special occasions. Paddy Power odds: 33/1
  • Dubai – Gráinne Boyle

    Special needs teacher Gráinne, 24, has worked in Dubai for the past two years. A Psychology graduate from NUI Galway, she has recently been accepted to study for a Masters in Educational Psychology. A keen triathlete, Donegal-born Gráinne is a member of Dubai Masters Swimming Club and has competed in a range of national and international triathlons including Abu Dhabi, London and Chicago. Paddy Power odds: 8/1
  • Dublin – Siobhéal Nic Eochaidh

    Siobhéal is a full-time student at NUI Maynooth where she will begin a Masters in Irish this year. The 22-year-old has won league and championship gaelic and camogie titles with her club in Clondalkin, and has previously toured Europe and the US playing clarinet with the Clondalkin Youth Band. Siobhéal has also performed with the Livewire Theatre Group, and is a self-taught hip-hop dancer. Paddy Power odds: 20/1
  • Edmonton – Tara Keigher

    Tara (23) is a permenent member of staff at the Surrey Memorial Hospital in British Columbia, but also volunteers with her local humane society working with dogs awaiting adoption. A third-generation Irish dancer, Tara has enjoyed competitive dancing for 14 years and continues to attend dance classes. She also enjoys reading, knitting, pottery, scrapbooking and baking. Family links with Dublin and Roscommon. Paddy Power odds: 100/1
  • Germany – Saoirse Fitzgerald

    Saoirse, 25, is a marketing executive for Enterprise Ireland in Dusseldorf. She holds degrees from UCC – where she represented her college at rowing – and UCD. A member of Clashmore/Kinsalebeg GAA club in Waterford, Saoirse is currently in training for her first half-marathon and also enjoys zumba dancing. Paddy Power odds: 25/1
  • Kerry – Síle Ní Dheargain

    Síle (26) is an art teacher at Ennis Community College, with qualifications from the Limerick School of Art & Design. A keen rower since the age of 15, in 2010 Síle set up her own rowing club which now has 50 members. Síle has taken part in the Thames Great River Race and the Ocean to City Race in Cork. She’s also climbed Carrantwohill for Cancer Research, loves walking on the Dingle peninsula, has ridden on most of the world's major roller coasters despite a fear of heights, and loves traditional music and ceili dancing. Paddy Power odds: 12/1
  • Laois – Sinéad Fennell

    DCU nursing student Sinead (21) is a member of Graiguecullen youth choir and regularly helps out in the parish centre. Sinead likes horses, watching musicals, hockey, Italian food and Skype-ing her friends in England and Scotland – but says she’s not so keen on merging into the motorway heading back to college. Oddly, for a potential Rose of Tralee, she says tea isn’t her cup of tea. Paddy Power odds: 33/1
  • London – Caroline Marley

    Financial analyst Caroline (25) works for First Derivatives and is on secondment to RBS. Caroline plays the piano, double bass, bodhrán and tin whistle. She also plays tag rugby, attends London’s infamous outdoor fitness bootcamps and is a keen athlete who has taken part in running races to raise much needed funds for Cystic Fibrosis. Caroline is from Newry, though both of her parents are from Portadown. Paddy Power odds: 50/1
  • New York state: Erin Loughran

    Erin (22) is the Youth Officer for Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann North America and has several All-Ireland medals for fiddle playing. She attended the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at UL, graduating last year, and now teaches music all over New York and New Jersey – even being featuered in HBO’s series The Music in Me. Family connections to Tyrone and Kerry. Paddy Power: 16/1
  • New Zealand – Ailbhe Ryan

    Ailbhe completed her Masters on the Arab-Israeli conflict, but works as a customer service consultant for an insurance company in Wellington. Ailbhe enjoys Irish dancing, reading, cooking, going to festivals, travel, keeping fit and learning how to fish. If you’re into omens, Ailbhe (now 26) visited the festival as a child in 1994, getting a kiss on the cheek from Limerick Rose Muirne Hurley – who went on to win the contest. Her father is from Tralee; her mother from Cavan. Paddy Power odds: 40/1
  • Ottawa – Katherine Scott

    22-year-old Kate works with Statistics Canada, but hopes to pursue a doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine. She has also worked as a dance teacher – dancing since the age of 8 - and also plays the harp. Kate has won awards for dancing, harp and voice, and was awarded the title best young composer for a piece she wrote commemorating the events of 11th September 2001. She can trace her Irish heritage back to her great-great-grandmother who was from Corkstown in Co Tyrone. Paddy Power odds: 66/1
  • Perth – Melanie Gore

    PE teacher Melanie, 25, holds a degree in Sports Science. An experienced dancer, she’s been a member of her local Irish dancing community for over twenty years - and is a former state champion who regularly came in the top five at the national competitions. She also enjoys keeping fit and outdoor activities. She can trace her Irish heritage to her grandparents, from Douglas and Glanmire in Co Cork. Paddy Power odds: 50/1
  • Philadelphia – Beth Keeley

    Beth, 25, currently works as a web content coordinator but hopes to complete a Masters degree in Broadcasting, Telecommunications & Mass Media with a particular focus on preventing cyberbullying. Beth is a member of various community service organisations, and has been a production assistant on Sesame Street. Aside from the day job, she hosts a Beatles-themed radio show with her father, and hosts fundraiser events for the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society. Paddy Power odds: 100/1
  • Queensland - Tara Talbot

    Secondary school teacher Tara, 27, is also studying for a Masters in Marketing. She’s a member of the Queensland Irish Association, plays mixed touch football, follows rugby and plans to travel to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup. She has also Queensland at national level in athletics. Tara is also an active member of the St Vincent de Paul, through which she tutors a refugee family from Burma. Her father is from Dublin and her mother is from the Philippines. Paddy Power odds: 11/8 favourite
  • Roscommon - Róisín Guihen

    Róisín, 19, is taking an evening course in Neuroscience at Trinity College hoping to eventually enrol in Medicine. She’s a member of the Trinity College rowing club, and also of the Dublin Civil Defence. She enjoys swimming, singing, surfing in Sligo, basketball, football and playing the piano, and is a great supporter of Roscommon GAA. She was the 2009 winner of the Soroptomist All-Ireland Public Speaking competition. Paddy Power odds: 40/1
  • San Francisco – Sheila Ashtiani

    Sheila, 20, is studying Nursing at San Francisco State University, hoping to become a midwife. She has been competing in Irish dancing competitions since the age of seven, and also enjoys running, spending time with family and friends, cheering on her beloved San Francisco Giants baseball team, and volunteering at her local hospital. She regularly takes part in the San Francisco Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. She has family links to Derry. Paddy Power odds: 100/1
  • South Australia – Susan Gellard

    Accountant Susan, 27, works as an accountant and has lived all over the world due to her father being in the Royal Australian Airforc – in whose steps she followed when, at 13, she joined theAir Cadets as the only female cadet at the time. She enjoys going to the gym, cooking desserts, travelling, socialising and body boarding, and learnt to surf in the cold waters of Ireland. Susan’s mother is from Carrickfergus, Co Antrim. Paddy Power odds: 80/1
  • Southern California – Molly O’Keefe

    Molly is a producer for filmmaker Roger Kumble, most recently working on on his film ‘Furry Vengeance’ starring Brendan Fraser. The 27-year-old is an avid swimmer and triathlete, and has completed marathoms in Los Angeles and San Diego. She captained the women’s cross country and basketball teams at college, and was 2004 Player of the Year for the Donegal ladies’ football club in LA. Family links to Kerry. Paddy Power odds: 40/1
  • Sunderland – Niamh O’Connell

    Tipp native Niamh, 20, is studying Pharmacy at the University of Sunderland where she’s the president of the university hockey club and captain of the women’s first team. She plays ladies football with her local GAA club in Newcastle, and has represented both her county and province in both hockey and camogie at various underage levels. Her favourite quote is that "woman must not accept, she must challenge". Paddy Power odds: 100/1
  • Sydney – Caroline Harney

    Primary teacher Caroline, 27, loves the performing arts, and teaching singing and dancing. She’s involved with the Australian Irish Dancing Association, has travelled with Irish Dance productions Dance of Desire and Gaelforce Dance, and has performed at the Sydney Opera House. She is a keen traveller, and also likes acting, yoga, zumba, tennis, cooking, fitness, swimming and reading by the beach. She is a niece of the former Defence Forces chief of staff – and Roscommon footballing legend – Dermot Earley. Paddy Power odds: 3/1
  • Texas – Danielle Ybarra

    Investment analyst Danielle, 25, has visited her mother’s hometown of Castleisland, Co Kerry every summer for years. A lover of the Irish Polka, Danielle was a member of the Tarrant County College Northwest Dance Company where she danced live on stage with African drummers, and attended festivals and competitions. Paddy Power odds: 50/1
  • Tipperary – Nóirín Ryan

    Nóirín is a qualified occupational therapist working in Carlow, hoping to become a clinical specialist in paediatrics. The 24-year-old is a member of her local camogie club and the Tipperary intermediates, but plays guitar and piano. As a singer she won the 2010 Munster Solo Singing Final of Scór Sinsear. This isn’t her first Irish pageant – she represented Tipperary South at Macra na Feirme’s Queen of the Land Festival. Paddy Power odds: 33/1
  • Toronto – Aileen Doyle

    Aileen, 25, is a Communications Coordinator for ‘Journalists for Human Rights’ and holds a bilingual Political Science degree from the University of Ottawa. A keen snowboarder, Aileen enjoys staying active with yoga, swimming, running and biking, and has completed five half marathons and two triathlons. She has won singing competitions, performed in many plays and theatre productions and also enjoys film acting. Not content with that, she also wants to write a novel. Family from Dublin and Clare. Paddy Power odds: 40/1
  • Washington DC – Dorothy Moriarty Henggeler

    Dorothy (‘Dott’), 25, is a communications coordinator for an investment management firm. She volunteers with the Make-A–Wish foundation and is a huge GAA and American football fan, supporting the Dr Crokes and the Kerry team, as her mother is from Killarney, and attends Munster football finals whenever she can. She enjoys working out at the gym, and taking Zumba classes. Paddy Power odds: 66/1
  • Wexford - Mary Kehoe

    Primary schoolteacher Mary, 26, has postgraduate diplomas in both Advanced Engineering and in Education. She loves football, hurling and badminton, but particularly enjoys softball – in which she will Ireland at the European Club Championships this summer. She is also a member of Carnew Musical Society and believes that “to succeed in life you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” Paddy Power odds: 6/1

Photographs courtesy of the Rose of Tralee festival.

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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