Thousands of people across Ireland tuned in last night to watch Aoife Kelly be crowned this year’s Rose of Tralee.
The 23-year-old from Tipperary beat 30 other hopefuls to take the coveted title which celebrates the aspirations, ambitions, intellect and social responsibility of young women with an Irish heritage.
Among those who were vying to become the blossoming flower was Derry teacher Catherine Lagan, Sydney accountant Hannah Bradley, who is from Co Down, and London rose Belinda Brown, who grew up in Antrim.
All three took part in the five-day festival and each showed off their talents during the live broadcast at the Festival Dome in Co Kerry over two nights.
Choking back tears as she was crowned, a delighted Aoife, who is an occupational therapist at the National Rehabilitation Hospital of Ireland, told host Ray D’Arcy that she was speechless in her elation at being named the new Rose of Tralee.
“I don’t have words,” she gushed. “I just want to say thanks a million. It’s an honour to represent Tipperary.”
Aoife, who has spent a lot of time travelling and has volunteered at remote townships in South Africa, is the first representative of Tipperary in the 49-year history of the competition.
Besides spending the next year representing the Rose of Tralee Festival around the world, the 23-year-old will also be planning her wedding.
During the festival it was revealed she had not met her future in-laws but they were able to see her for the first time during the live broadcast online.
Aoife was the bookies’ favourite for the title last week but was overtaken in the betting on Monday by Sydney Rose Hannah Bradley, who hails from Co Down.