There was disappointment for Laois Rose Niamh Bracken last weekend, but good news for Portlaoise, which has been chosen to host the lucrative Regional Finals for a further three years.
The tall Portarlington young brunette was not one of the final 23 to make to the Tralee festival, but she was praised for her hostess role as she showed her 53 fellow contestants around Laois over the long weekend.
On Thursday the roses, each accompanied by their Laois rosebuds, toured Portlaoise and later Emo Court. The residents of St Vincent’s Hospital were paid a visit on Friday, and after lunch Portarlington literally laid out the red carpet, with crowds on the streets at Niamh’s dad’s shop Eamon Bracken Menswear and Port Pharmacy, where she is floor manager.
On Saturday they took part in the Gordon Bennett Vintage Parade through Portlaoise. On Sunday after attending the now traditional Mass in SS Peter and Paul’s Church, they visited Castle Durrow, before the finals were staged that night in the Heritage Hotel Portlaoise.
A hoarse Niamh spoke to the Leinster Express by phone yesterday.
“The whole weekend was absolutely amazing. Portlaoise was my Tralee, even if I had got through, I don’t think anything could have topped it, especially when we visited Portarlington, that was my proudest moment,” she said.
Niamh sang ‘Black is the colour’ for her on-stage party piece.
“It was nerve-wracking beforehand, but the moment I came out, I was on cloud nine. It is unfortunate that the regionals are not televised, there is such a huge amount of talent,” she said.
It’s back to work in Port Pharmacy for Niamh today (Wednesday) but she is looking forward to her year as Laois Rose.
“Next week I will be visiting schools, but all year I will have something on most weeks, promoting charities and the county,” said Niamh, who will travelling to Tralee to cheer on her fellow roses in August.
Meanwhile County Manager Peter Carey said he is delighted Laois has secured the contract to host the regional finals for the next three years.
“Laois got tremendous coverage over the weekend, with people from Europe and America visiting for the Rose of Tralee Regional Finals. The feedback has been absolutely fantastic, they got to visit a lot of attractions, It’s a great profile and we are delighted that we have been able to secure the festival up to 2015,” said Mr Carey yesterday (Tusday).
Tourism Officer Dom Reddin said they were disappointed that Niamh was not one of the eight Irish roses chosen.
“That’s the luck of the draw, but she did a great job taking the roses around, she represented her county very well,” he said.
The Irish Roses chosen to go forward are from Down, Mayo, Kilkenny, Waterford, Tyrone, Louth and Westmeath. They join 19 International Roses, as well as the Dublin and Kerry roses for the final in Tralee, held on August 17 to 20.