Becoming Laois Rose was “a dream come true”, young Mountmellick women Maeve Dunne she told the Leinster Express after her selection to represent the county in the Rose of Tralee this summer.
Maeve, 26, just home after a two year career stint in Australia, was “shocked and elated” when her name was called out on stage, at the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel last Sunday night April 30.
“I've been obsessed with the Rose of Tralee since I was a kid. It's a dream come true, I'm absolutely delighted.
“It's going to be a busy year, I'll give it 100 percent, and I'm thrilled to be the first Laois Rose from Mountmellick," she said afterwards.
The only child of Ger and Geraldine Dunne, she is sponsored by the family business, Emmet Stores Gala supermarket.
"When the organisers asked me who would come to support me tonight, I said my whole family, and they were 'oh here we go', but it's just Ger, Geraldine and me. And my dog Millie," she told MC Brendan Hennessy on stage.
“I'm over the moon for her, ecstatic. She'll carry it with grace, I've no doubt about that. Before she left Sydney her boss told her she would shine like a diamond, and she certainly did tonight,” her proud dad Ger said.
Maeve attended St Joseph's GNS, Mountmellick Community School, NUI Galway and the Smurfit school of Business for a Masters in Management, now working as an event manager for Accenture in Dublin.
She wins jewellery from Tipperary Crystal, her hair sponsored for the year by The Parlour, and headpieces by milliner Pamela Curtin.
In all 17 Laois women took to the stage at the fun filled glamorous night, each accompanied by adorable little Laois Rosebuds in a first for the event. They were cheered by a packed room of supporters with bright banners.
The rosebuds aged from 3 to 12 charmed the audience by introducing themselves and them performing the Frozen classic 'Let it Go'.
All the Laois Rose entrants displayed confidence, charm and musical talent, with many taking time out from studying for college exams.
Manhattan Mixer's Niamh Carroll made cocktails live on the stage, gifted to the Kildare and Tipperary Roses in the audience.
Stradbally entrant, SNA Chloe Kelly brought huge support, with masses of banners, including one made by children in Kolbe Centre, all joining in her rousing song 'Caledonia'.
New rules meant that for the first time, a mother could take part. Nikita Murphy, backed by The Office in Portlaoise, has a little girl calledLeah.
“I said I'd do something for myself,” she said, dancing a reel for the audience.
For Gillian Leahy from Grangemore near Borris-in-Ossory, it was a bittersweet night. Her father passed away only a fortnight ago.
“I thought he'd be here tonight, I know he's looking down, and I know I'm doing him proud, that's why I'm here,” said a brave Gillian.
The raffle was for outgoing Laois Rose Kate Hyland's chosen charity, Chernobyl Children International, with Kate taking to the stage to thank all who supported her during her busy year.
“I couldn't have done it without the support, it's been such an adventure, I hope I've made a difference somewhere, and I will continue to work with the charity CCI,” she said, adding that the new Laois Rose would have “an amazing year”.
Laois Rose Maeve Dunne will now begin hectic preparations for the International Rose of Tralee, which takes place from August 16 to 22, with 65 Roses taking part.