Stunning Cliodhna McCorley spoke for the first time last night after being stripped of her Belfast Rose of Tralee crown following an innocent blunder about her age.
A-level student Cliodhna (17) from Antrim was crowned the Belfast rose at the city's Europa Hotel earlier this month after wowing the judges with her good looks, down-to-earth attitude and bubbly personality.
However, as the Belfast Telegraph revealed on Saturday, the title was taken from her after it emerged that she was just four months too young to have entered. The mix-up made her the shortest serving Rose in the festival's history.
Cliodhna, whose ambition is to go on to drama school after completing her A-levels, says the problem only came to light after she was crowned the Belfast winner.
She said last night: "I honestly thought the minimum age was 17 after reading publicity about the competition but it turns out that contestants have to be 18 or older and I am not 18 until August.
"The mistake only came to light after I had been crowned and so the title was taken from me. At first I was obviously gutted at what happened but the rules are the rules and I fully accept the decision that has been taken.
"This has never happened before and I am not in the least bitter, in fact I want to thank everyone involved in the Rose of Tralee festival for giving me such a wonderful experience.
"The week I was the Belfast Rose really was fantastic and I felt like a Princess for the entire time I was the Belfast Rose. I met so many people, attended a lot of events and enjoyed every second of it."
Cliodhna said the decision now meant that she would concentrate on her studies.
She said she would work doubly hard hard on getting the best grades possible in her drama, Irish, biology and chemistry A- levels at St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena.
She said it was unlikely she would enter the same contest next year as the pressure would be too great on her to win a second time round.
She said: "I would feel that I would have to be exactly the same as last year and the judges would be under pressure of their own too because of what happened, so I might give it a miss next time round.
"That is not to say I have given up on the competition because I still have ten years to enter so there is every chance I will be back before then."
Cliodhna also entered Miss Northern Ireland this year and made it through to the final seven contestants and says she may also take part in the Miss Ireland contest later this year.