Philadelphia Rose Walsh took center stage at Croke Park for the All-Ireland football semi-final just hours after the Irish Sun on Sunday broke the news.
The Mayo-born football fan confirmed to the paper on Sunday morning that she is ‘gay and proud,’ the first Rose winner to come out.
In a subsequent interview, Walsh told the Irish Times that she has received ‘positive feedback’ since going public on being gay.
Born in Ireland and raised in Boston, she added that the question of her sexuality never came up during the Rose festival and was not relevant in any case.
She also told the Irish Times that her achievement in winning the Rose of Tralee confounded critics of the festival who described it as old-fashioned.
She said: “I would ask those critics who have previously said the festival is old-fashioned if they had visited Tralee over the course of a festival weekend?
“This was my first time in Tralee and all I experienced was a modern, fun and craic-filled time.
“I know the 31 other Roses who shared this moment with me were and are very far from old-fashioned. These women are classy, intelligent and identify with the many young women in this country and across the Diaspora.”
The newly crowned Rose has also said she is heartened by comments from former Irish government minister Mary O’Rourke.
The former Fianna Fail politician said: “The new Rose of Tralee epitomizes the words of the song it was 'the truth in her eyes ever-dawning.'”
Now preparing to return home to America, Walsh added: “I don’t know if that was what William Mulchinock had in mind when he wrote The Rose of Tralee, but it’s a lovely comment from Mary O’Rourke.
“One of the first people I met on Sunday morning was a shopkeeper in a filling station en route to Croke Park.
“When he congratulated me, I asked him if it was for being the Rose of Tralee or after reading the story in the Sun. ‘Both’, he replied.
“My family are very proud of me and the most important thing to them is that I’m happy and healthy.”
Walsh was introduced to the Croke Park crowd at half-time on Sunday when she saw her native Mayo draw with Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final.
She is due back in Ireland next week for an interview on the "Late Late Show" on RTE, the Irish state broadcaster.
Her story has hit headlines across the world, but Rose of Tralee executive international chairman Anthony O’Gara has said the festival was "delighted to have chosen Walsh as this year’s Rose."
He said: “She is a wonderful person. An attractive, intelligent woman and a very worthy winner, who happens to be gay.
“Her sexuality will no doubt create some interest, hopefully all positive. She wants to be celebrated as Maria Walsh in the complete sense of her person and hopefully everybody will respect that.”
Former Rose of Tralee Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin has offered her support to Walsh.
She tweeted: “Our new @RoseofTralee_ Maria Walsh is a wonderful representative for both the festival and young women everywhere.”
She added: “Sexuality needn’t be a headline but @least a positive story like this brings Ireland’s dinner table & political conversations to 21st century.”
North Carolina Rose Nancy Boyce tweeted: “We love, support and stand by Maria Walsh 100 percent and are excited about her reign as the International #RoseofTralee!”
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