Laois Rose Maeve Dunne on Portlaoise Main Street. Photos by Kevin Byrne
Aspreadsheet and Epsom salts are some of the more unusual items packed along with an array of colourful dresses, hats and shoes, by Laois Rose Maeve Dunne, for her big week at the International Rose of Tralee Festival.
Maeve, 26, joined the madness of the Rose Tour last Tuesday August 15, arriving in Tralee for the Rose Celebration today Thursday, and the first selection of finalists tonight.
The Leinster Express, proud media sponsor of the Laois Rose, was delighted to spend an hour with the busy young Mountmellick woman last weekend on a photo shoot in Portlaoise.
Modelling two dresses that were gifted to her by Lily & Rose boutique, the dainty young lady attracted lots of attention on Main Street and happily posed for photos with local children.
Excitement is mounting for her as the festival nears.
“I felt the first real excitement after talking to my little rosebud on the phone yesterday. Her name is Eadaoin Healy from Kenmare and she was telling all about picking her dresses, and she knew I had a dog called Millie because she found the Leinster Express story online, she actually has a dog called Millie too, she was so excited, it was lovely,” she said.
To add to her hectic schedule, event manager Maeve moved job this week, from Accenture to Croke Park, and she also moved home in Dublin.
“I haven't had a minute to spare, it's an exciting time,” she said.
Ever organised, she has compiled a spreadsheet of her outfits and accessories to minimise stress during the busy Rose Week.
“I also received dresses from Laois designer Heidi Higgins, from 57 boutique in Portarlington, Ladybelle in Abbeyleix, No 1 Boutique in Mountmellick, and Couture in Laois Shopping Centre.
Laois milliner Pamela Curtin has again sponsored the Laois Rose.
“She has given me half a dozen hats, fabulous pieces all made to suit each dress, she has been brilliant,” Maeve said.
The Parlour in Laois Shopping Centre is looking after her hair for the year.
“Paul has been so good, doing my hair for every event, they make a lovely fuss of me when I call in,” she said.
Laois County Council and Gala Group have also helped out with the cost of going to Tralee, as well as Burbage Academy of Irish Dancing.
“The support from everyone is wonderful, especially in Mountmellick,there is great excitement,” she said.
The epsom salts are a handy tip from other Roses, for a nighttime foot soak to ease the ache of wearing high heels constantly.
There might well be some Irish dancing, as Maeve is an award winning dancer, with 20 years experience with the Gabriel Lynam School of Dance.
She has already forged Rose friendships.
“I’ve met about 30 of the Roses already, and they are all lovely, but I have formed some close friendships with some already, which is great. I have lots of little tips, like bringing pins, plasters, and green teabags because there is a lot of food. There is so much more than I thought to it,” she said.
Recently Maeve attended the Galway Races with the Roses, and wowed everyone in a stunning red dress and hairpiece. See here.
“We were treated like royalty at the Galway Races but it was an eyeopener, the way we had to move from A to B, and being conscious you are there as a Rose,” noted Maeve.
She is ready to do her best for her county.
“I will be flying the flag for Laois, I have packed the Laois jersey given to me from Mountmellick GAA club. The experience is something I’ll have forever, I will have amazing memories to pass on to my own children. I am just going to enjoy every aspect of it,” Maeve said.
The pressure will be intense all week long this year. Instead of off camera stage interviews to choose 32 finalists, the 64 Roses will be judged by their every move over the ten days.
The first 16 will be announced in the Dome tonight Thursday August 17 by RTE’s Marty Morrissey. Then the final 16 will be announced on Saturday morning at breakfast.
“It will be ten days under the spotlight. I will try to find moments to myself but the schedule is jam packed. I do love my full nights sleep, and there will be very little of that,” Maeve said.
Last year’s controversial reality TV programme shunted the young women into two rooms then told one roomful they didn’t go through, with the cameras rolling as tears fell. It received nationwide criticism.
“I think the organisers learnt a lot from that, and now they are very conscious to keep the announcements low key. This year it’s all about bringing it back to the girls, after all that is what it’s all about,” said Maeve.
Her parents Ger and Geraldine, who own Dunne’s Gala in Mountmellick, will be supporting her all the way in Tralee, along with a big gang of friends and locals.
Geraldine who attended the photo shoot, admitted that she is nervous for her only child.
“I’ll only relax when I get to Kerry, we are extremely proud of her, she has been so busy, working in Dublin and coming home every night to attend events,” she said.
One such proud event recently was a visit to St Vincent’s Hospital in Mountmellick, where Geraldine was a nurse for many years.
“It was great to be able to bring my daughter back as the Laois Rose, to meet all the patients,” she said.
“It was lovely visiting them, it’s so nice to be able to put a smile on someone’s face, some of them even remembered Mammy working there,” Maeve said.
Laois has a second Rose to support this year, in Perth Rose Kerrie-Ann Barnes whose mother Stephanie is a Mountmellick woman, see here.
Fingers and toes will be crossed across Laois for both Maeve and Kerrie-Ann that they get selected and make it to the televised stage interviews, live on RTE on August 21 and 22.