The names of the 23 inspiring Irish women from around the world who will compete in August to become the 2015 Rose of Tralee have been announced.
Fifty six Roses gathered at the Regional Festival in County Laois this week, where the finalists were selected. Roses from the USA, Canada, Ireland, Britain, Germany, Luxembourg and the Middle East were treated to a four-day festival in County Laois complete with civic reception, classic car parade, music & street market festival and the Laois County Fleadh.
RTÉ Rose of Tralee Selection Host, Dáithí Ó Sé, said: “The Roses who have been chosen to progress to the televised selection in Tralee will be amazed by the sheer scale of the pageantry and excitement of the Festival in the Kingdom. The Rose of Tralee is a major focal point in Irish communities all over the world. The Rose of Tralee is the single biggest thread that ties the whole Irish diaspora together and that’s one of the reasons why the Rose of Tralee is one of the biggest festivals in the world. The event in Tralee is the culmination of a lengthy process to find the next Rose of Tralee.”
The Chief Executive of Laois County Council, Gerry Murphy, said: “It was an honor to once again host, albeit for the final time, such a prestigious event on the Irish Festivals calendar. The fun and excitement that the Roses experienced would not have been possible without the support of our local sponsors.”
The 23 Roses who have qualified for the televised selection will be joined by the Kerry, Dublin and Cork Roses as well as six Roses from Australia and New Zealand in the Dome next August.
This year’s Rose of Tralee International Festival will run from Friday to Tuesday, August 14 to August 18 and will feature an exciting program of entertainment for all the family.
Get to know the 2015 Roses here:
ABU DHABI ROSE – DEIRDRE WARD
Hi, my name is Deirdre Ward and I am the Abu Dhabi 2015 Rose! I am 27 years old from Co. Donegal. I am teaching Kindergarten and living in the UAE. My time so far has been a positive one as I am enjoying meeting new people, learning new teaching styles and learning about the Arabian lifestyle. I love to keep fit and be active. I played basketball all through my school and college years and I have two All-Ireland Gold Medals. I have also traveled to New York playing the sport. I enjoy running and I have completed the Mini Marathon, The Galway Bay Half Marathon, and The Beach Bog Run, Hell & Back. I have recently started Gaelic football as it is a great way to meet expats when living abroad. Last August I organized an obstacle course fun run on Fintra Beach, Killybegs and raised €10,520 in aid of The Donegal Hospice. I played the fiddle for years growing up and most recently started to play the guitar. I love to sing and hear new songs. Once I return from teaching in Abu Dhabi I want to further my education by studying Play Therapy. Life is good at the moment and being crowned 'Abu Dhabi Rose' is the icing on the cake!
BOSTON & NEW ENGLAND ROSE – SARAH HOGAN
Hello! My name is Sarah Hogan, I'm 20 years old and I am delighted to be representing Boston & New England! My Irish heritage comes from my father, a proud Kerryman. I studied at The New School University in New York City where I majored in Media Studies and Theater. I also had the privilege of studying Irish Theater at The Gaiety School of Acting this past summer. My greatest passions are acting and film and I have been fortunate enough to have been in numerous commercials, stage productions, as well as having had minor roles in popular television shows. One show allowed me eligibility for SAG (Screen Actors Guild). I have done modeling, primarily print for makeup companies such as NARS and MAC, fashion houses and Glamour Magazine. I am an advocate for anti-bullying and arts therapy and a lot of my creative work is a reflection of that. I am working with a teenager with Autism, as well as on the creative team for a film editing app for the iPhone that will be released soon. I am proud to call myself an Irish American. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been given this opportunity and am excited to be going back to Ireland!
CHICAGO ROSE – MAEVE MCSWEENEY
Hi! Is mise Maeve McSweeney from Chicago, IL, President Barack Obama’s hometown. I am 21 years old and currently on the pre-med track at Marquette University to become a Medical Doctor specializing in Paediatrics. I have one brother, Rory, 23. My mother, Julia, is from Ardee, Co. Louth. My dad, Tim, was born and raised in Chicago. I am a singer and music arranger in an all-female a cappella group at Marquette University called The Meladies. Our performances have raised funds and awareness for several charitable organizations. On Monday nights I am the Cantor in our 600 year old Historic Joan of Arc Chapel during our candlelight Mass. My spirituality is very important to me. I have volunteered at The Children’s Hospital Of Milwaukee for the past three years in their HOT Unit (haematology, oncology and transplant). One of my most notable achievements was competing for and winning the title of South Side Irish Parade Queen in 2014. It was a great honor for me to become a representative of our vibrant Irish community here in Chicago. Through the Irish Diaspora I have learned this: our Irish embrace is global. We are united in our love of all things Irish. I’m proud to be counted in your numbers. Slán.
DERRY ROSE – EIMEAR ANDERSON
My name is Eiméar and I'm a 20 year old student busy fulfilling my dreams to become a teacher in the wonderfully unique St. Mary's University College, Belfast. I hope to graduate in two years’ time and progress to teaching Religious Education in a post-primary school. That is of course if the option of becoming a full-time Disney Princess doesn't work out! I was born and raised in the rural and very beautiful village of Glenullin in the back end of beyond in North Derry and am a proud woman of all things country. I come from a large family circle, to the extent where Granny's living room on a Sunday afternoon is bursting at the seams. However, at home it is just my lovely mammy and daddy, my brother, Conor and myself! Oh, and not forgetting the third and undoubtedly preferred child - our dog, Pippin. I am honored beyond belief to be representing our exceptional Oakleaf County, steeped in history and rich with culture, music, dance and the absolute craic. As a Rose, I can only hope to do my family, friends and all back home in Derry proud. It's definitely true what they say - níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán fėin!
DUBAI ROSE – MARIE RYAN
Hello my name is Marie Ryan. I am 26 years old and the 2015 Dubai Rose. I come from a small town in Tipperary called Borrisoleigh, famous for its ‘Tipperary Spring Water’ and strong hurling traditions. I am the youngest of five children and was reared by two loving and devoted parents. I took a career break from my PE and mathematics teaching job in Newcastle West, Co. Limerick and made the move to Dubai last summer. Dubai has given me the opportunity to work abroad in a safe and diverse community. It has opened my eyes to many different cultures which I have embraced and it has given me the opportunity of a lifetime. Also I have been lucky enough to be able enjoy my two great loves in life, shopping and sunshine! I am an honest, loyal and hardworking person which stems from my parents. I take great pride in my teaching and working with children. My family is the most important thing in my life which is the one negative thing about living so far from home. I have lots of interests and hobbies. Sport plays a big part in my life and joining the Dubai Celts GAA club has made moving to Dubai so much easier for me. Being crowned the Dubai Rose makes me immensely proud and I look forward to representing a growing Irish community in Dubai this year.
GALWAY ROSE – OLGA LEE
I am 25 years old and from the lovely village of Moycullen. I’m one of six girls and love being part of such a big, close-knit family! I have worked for the past two years in Trinity College as a Psychology Researcher, where I manage a study aiming to reduce social isolation. I also have a keen interest in entrepreneurship and will combine these career interests by returning to complete a master’s in Business Psychology this September. Those who know me best say that I am always on the go! I’m an avid equestrian enthusiast, tag rugby player and runner. Supporting people with learning disabilities is a huge part of my life and I volunteer weekly assisting with therapeutic horse-riding lessons. I am also an active volunteer with Special Olympics and formed part of a core committee co-ordinating community engagement for their 2015 national collection day. In addition, I love fashion, food, writing and I’m a member of a book club! Some of my proudest achievements include my extensive travel, my overseas development work and my publications in The Irish Times. I am extremely proud to be representing Galway in this year’s Rose of Tralee festival and I look forward to embracing the entire experience!
GERMANY ROSE - RÓISÍN NÍ MHATHÚNA
Guten Tag! My name is Róisín Ní Mhathúna, I am 22 years old, was born in Birmingham, England, but raised in Rush, Dublin. Since January 2014, I am lucky to call the amazing and diverse city of Berlin my home and even luckier to be the Germany Rose. I speak German and work in a multilingual Kindergarten in Berlin. I also have a decent level of French and understand some Spanish. I believe my love of languages is inspired by my sisters and I having always attended Gaelscoileanna. In Germany I have made friends from all over the world and we have shared our cultures. My Latino friends have intrigued me so much that I am now planning an extended trip to South America which will include working in an orphanage in Columbia with IVHQ charity organisation. Finally, my obsession with sport! I have grown up playing Gaelic and Camogie with St Maurs Gaa and I am a member of Setanta Berlin. My father and I are obsessed with supporting Aston Villa. We have seen over 200 professional football matches and travel around Europe to watch games. I am honored to have been selected as the Germany Rose, as since moving to Berlin I have had the time of my life.
KENTUCKY ROSE – EMILY HUGHES
Hello! My name is Emily Hughes, I’m 22 years old and I am your 2015 Kentucky Rose. I was born and bred in Louisville, Kentucky but I have to say I am one proud Irish gal. My Irish roots come from my parents who are from County Tyrone, but ventured to the States in 1981. In 2014, I graduated from the University of Louisville with a degree in History and a minor in Women and Gender Studies. After graduation I accepted an opportunity to pursue one of my passions in life, fitness, and became a barre and aerial fitness instructor. I would not trade this job for the world because I wake up excited about going to work. It is very touching when my clients tell me that I have made a positive impact in their lives and health. I am motivated by helping others which led me to run a half marathon to benefit St. Jude’s Children Hospital. I was pushed to complete the race knowing I was making a difference in a sick child’s life. I am a big believer that if you are capable of helping someone in need than you should take advantage of that. I am extremely excited to represent Kentucky in Portlaoise, and hope to be back in the Emerald Isle come August!
LONDON ROSE – AISLING HILLARY
I am 27 and was born and raised in The Netherlands by my Galwegian mother and Kerry-born father. I was part of the Redmond School of Irish Dancing performing across the Benelux countries. I completed my Junior Cert and Leaving Cert in Galway and completed my Medical Degree at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, graduating as a Doctor at the age of 22. Since graduating I have worked in England, Ireland and Australia and am now specialising in Emergency Medicine. Some of my unforgettable experiences include spending seven weeks in Zambia volunteering in the Lusaka Teaching Hospital, and in the UK volunteering at Over the Wall Children’s Camp – a camp for children with serious, life-limiting illnesses. I enjoy sport and exercise, I was on the Brighton & Sussex Medical School Netball Team for five years. I ran the Reading Half Marathon for UNICEF and cycled the London to Brighton Bike Ride for the British Heart Foundation twice. I have worked for a telephone fundraising company to raise money for NSPCC, Childline and RSPCA charities. I love music! I can play the violin and keyboard and love to sing. During Uni I formed an Irish band called the Celtic Ti-grrs.
LONGFORD ROSE – DAPHNE HOWARD
My name is Daphne Howard and I am incredibly proud to be the Longford Rose. A native of Newtownforbes, Co. Longford, I am 25 years old. I am a primary school teacher in a two-teacher school in Longford, having graduated from Trinity College in 2010. Whilst performing my teaching and Rose duties, I strive to live life to the full. My proud parents, Richard and Ann, frequently tell me to “Settle myself” – whatever that means. I recently completed a production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ with St. Mel’s Musical Society, Longford. I enjoy playing the piano, which I studied since I was six. I play football with my local ladies club, Clonguish CLG. Moving from Dublin to Longford in 2014, keen to make connections with other local teachers, I organized a social group, ‘T for Teachers’ – which is precisely that. I am a life-long member of Longford Mental Health Association, which promotes positive mental health and supports those recovering from mental illness, their families and carers. I love to travel, but as luck would have it, whilst I was traveling to Lebanon, a chance encounter with a group of Roses traveling to Chernobyl led me to apply to become Longford Rose.
LOUTH ROSE – JENNY HANLON
Hi everyone! My name is Jenny Hanlon, I'm 19 years old and I live in a small quaint place called Cooley in Ireland’s smallest county, Louth! There is a lot of great things about Louth including my local village Carlingford, which is an extremely popular tourist destination. With the views of the Mourne mountains, Queen Maeve’s gap and the famous King John’s castle, it really is a brilliant place to live. I am absolutely delighted to be representing my county and hope to do everyone proud. At the minute I am finishing a one year course studying business in Maynooth University, however I hope to make it as a singer someday. Music is my passion and can't imagine myself doing anything else. I decided to do a one year business course so that I would understand all aspects of the music industry. I also really enjoy dancing and help out at my sister’s dance school at the weekend. My favourite type of dance is Irish dancing as I started at the age of six and just fell in love with it. I never thought in a million years I would get to be the Louth rose at the age of nineteen and I am absolutely delighted to have this amazing opportunity.
MEATH ROSE – ELYSHA BRENNAN
My name is Elysha Brennan, and I am honored to be this year’s Meath Rose. I am 22 years old and from the beautiful coastal village of Bettystown. I spent an amazing 6 years at Gormanston College Co Meath where I graduated with a student of the year medal. I am a second year medical student in the Royal College of Surgeons Dublin. I adore what I am studying although during exam season I always consider alternative career options, such as joining the circus. I have a keen interest in working with children and am involved with the RCSI Paediatric Society. I have also volunteered for the Irish Cancer Society, and plan to partake in a volunteer mission with a local parish in Lourdes. I have been involved with musical theatre from an early age, and have a passion for all things song and dance. I have been lucky enough to have taken part in the Olympia Theatre Dublin Christmas pantomimes and a Michael Jackson tribute show. I made a bucket list two years ago and am slowly ticking things off, including visiting the Statue of Liberty in New York, Greek island hopping and now becoming the Meath Rose.
MELBOURNE ROSE – JOY KERRIGAN
My name is Joy Shannan Kerrigan; I am 24 years old and I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. I moved to Melbourne with my family in June 2010 and have fallen completely in love with it. I am the third of four girls and absolutely love having a big family. My Pa, James Kerrigan, was born in Edenderry, a town in Country Offaly, where his father was Bank Manager of the Hibernian Bank of Ireland. When he was 4 years old he moved to Athy, where he remained until moving to Zimbabwe. In 2014 I completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree majoring in Psychology and Drama and in 2015 I completed a Cert IV in Finance and Broking. I am currently working full time with ANZ Mortgage Solutions, where I enjoy a challenging role and a fast paced and creative environment. A few of my hobbies are sailing, dancing, painting, singing and traveling. I backpacked around Europe in 2014 for 4 months, where I encounter compassion, gained culture knowledge and learnt how to live adventurously. I am honored to have been selected as the 2015 Melbourne Rose and represent the place I now call my home in my Pa’s homeland.
MONAGHAN ROSE – MICHELLE CAULFIELD
Hi everyone! My name is Michelle Caulfield. I am 27 years old and I hail from the lovely village of Scotstown in County Monaghan. I’m the oldest of four children and I am grateful to be part of a very close knit family! I am a Junior Infants teacher in Palmerstown, County Dublin. I moved home to Monaghan this year so I commute to Dublin each day but living with my family again and of course Mammy’s home cooking makes the drive worth every minute! I knew from a very young age that I really enjoyed working with children and youth work is a huge part of my life! My involvement with Rainbows Ireland and Focus Ireland has allowed me to meet the most inspirational children. I absolutely love to travel and have spent summers in California, Miami and Thailand! I’ve a great interest in fashion and love to shop a little too much! My pride and joy is my little Bichon Frise, Holly and we love our walks together in the beautiful local parks in Monaghan. I’m so honored and proud to be representing the ‘Farney County’ this year and I know this is going to be an unforgettable year of new experiences, new friendships and making a difference!
NEW YORK – SOPHIE COLGAN
Hello! My name is Sophie Colgan, I’m 23 years of age and delighted to be the 2015 New York Rose. I come from Lisnacree, in Co. Down where I grew up in a family of nine. After graduating with a degree in Communications and PR, I pursued my dream of moving to NY. I work as an Intern for Construction Company J.T. Magen in Manhattan, whilst pursuing a career in Public Relations in the non-profit industry. Irish heritage, culture and sport are my greatest passions. My home club An Ríocht – Irish for the Kingdom (Kerry isn’t the only Kingdom!) - helped develop my passion, and I play and promote GAA here in NY. I’ve had the honor of helping to establish and captain NYs first ever camogie team. In my free time I enjoy writing poetry and singing in the Manhattan Gaels ballad group. A great passion of mine is to contribute to the wellbeing of the Irish American community in New York. Emigration can leave people feeling isolated, and unfortunately many people do not have access to health care. It is vital to raise awareness and encourage people to talk, and I am honored to be involved with Pieta House and their mission to expand to the US.
PHILADELPHIA ROSE – MAIRÉAD COMASKEY
I’m Mairéad and I’m 27-years-old. I was raised outside Philadelphia with five sisters Charlotte, Nicole, Bridget, Eilish, Shania and our brother Michael. We were very fortunate to grow up spending summers watching Gaelic in Philadelphia and visiting family in Ireland-always up to mischief with cousins on family farms. My father, Mickey is from Co. Cavan, and mother, Breda from Co. Donegal. I became an avid traveller after a brilliant experience as an exchange student in St. Andrews, Scotland. I then went on to complete my degree in International Studies and Political Science from Arcadia University, taking full advantage of their programs to study in England, South Africa, the Netherlands and Taiwan. After graduation I volunteered with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Dublin, Ireland, before returning to Philadelphia in 2010. I currently work as a Culture Specialist for investment company, Vanguard Group, globalizing their recognition programs. Since returning to Philadelphia, I have volunteered as a mentor with the Youth Mentoring Partnership, a program committed to helping kids master goal setting skills, build mental toughness, and forge character through intense physical fitness and sports. I also enjoy doing fun running events- next up a Ragnar relay through West Virginia.
SCOTLAND ROSE – BRID MADIGAN
Bríd Madigan here, I'm 25 and I'm the Scotland Rose! I'm originally from Limerick and moved to Edinburgh three years ago to complete a postgraduate in Primary Teaching. I am currently working in Dunfermline, Fife in St. Margaret's Primary school. I have been lucky to experience living in Edinburgh and Dunfermline, two cities full of history, culture and welcoming people. Sports are a love of mine, I play football with Dunedin Connollys in Edinburgh and I train at a CrossFit gym in Dunfermline. I love to surf and am a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I enjoy singing and music and for the past year I have been teaching the children at school to play the Ukulele, which is new to me also! I am a former Bunratty Castle Entertainer, so I enjoy a good singsong now and then. I'm the youngest of four girls, auntie to three fantastic nephews and my amazing mother Anne, is the rock that holds our family together. As a family, we have done a lot of fundraising for Cliona's Foundation, a Limerick based charity, which is very close to our hearts.
SOUTH CAROLINA – SHANNON KELAHAN-PIERSON
Hi everyone! My name is Shannon Kelahan-Pierson, and I am thrilled to be the first Rose selected from beautiful South Carolina! I am 21 years old and a third year undergrad at Coastal Carolina University studying for my Bachelors in Marine Science. This is something that I have dreamed of doing since I was knocked over by a wave when I was just a year old, only a few miles away from where I live now! I also work as a teacher’s assistant and co-founded a research program with one of my professors to give students a chance to conduct their own research at one of the most diverse artificial reefs in the state. Needless to say, the ocean has a large place in my heart! Outside of class, the most important things in my life are my family, friends, and volunteer work. I am very close with my parents and grandparents, and I don’t know what I would do without my younger sister, Colleen. We grew up Irish dancing and causing chaos together, but she is still the most incredible person that I know. One of the things that makes my family so close is how proud we are of our Irish heritage, which initially stems from Co. Armagh and Co. Monaghan.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA – LAUREN WALLER
Hello! My name is Lauren Waller and I am proud to be your 2015 Southern California Rose. I was born in Los Angeles and have proud Irish roots in Counties Roscommon and Clare. I am a 20-year-old junior at Pepperdine University in Malibu majoring in Theater Production and Design, with an emphasis in Stage Management. I am an artist, singer, poet, lyricist, musician and avid proponent of the theater. I will spend the next few months working for the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation Summer Concert Series. I’ll be learning about live concert settings and working behind the scenes. Music is my true passion and I am currently in production of an EP of five original songs, play the piano, and recently learned how to play the ukulele. Giving back and helping others has always been an important part of my life, and I enjoy volunteering as a mentor for high school students through the National Charity League and the Ventura County Office of Education’s Mock Trial Competition. I am so excited to represent The Irish community of Southern California in Portlaoise, and extremely grateful to have been given such an amazing opportunity!
TEXAS ROSE – SIOBHÁN THOMPSON
Hi. My name is Siobhán Thompson, and I am so honored to be the 2015 Texas Rose of Tralee. I am a 24 year old from Houston, Texas…which is also exciting, because in the 31 year history of the Texas Rose, I am the first Rose chosen from Houston! I am a brand new graduate from the University of Houston, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education, and am currently looking for a job as a high school choir teacher. Music has always been an important part of my life as my whole family is musical, and it is rare if a family get together does not end up with some live music. Along with finishing school, I have been traveling for several years with the University of Houston Concert Chorale to various international choral competitions. We will be competing in July in Germany for the inaugural Grand Prix of Nations. When I am not singing, I love to play soccer with the Houston Gaels, which is part of the Texas GAA organization. I also enjoy spending time with my friends and family all over the US and Ireland. My father is from Belfast, and my grandparents are still living there.
TORONTO ROSE – ERIKA HEALY
Hi all! My name is Erika Healy, and I am 27 years old. I am so honored and excited to represent the Toronto Rose for 2015. I am a recent nursing graduate, looking to pursue a career in the mental health field. Mental Health is an area that is near and dear to my heart. As an advocate of mental health I want encourage people to seek help, make them aware of the many resources available to them, and assure them that there is nothing to be ashamed of. I am currently working as a server at a local restaurant called KB. We specialize in local, organic sustainable products. Our menu is based around what fresh, local products are available. We strongly believe in supporting our local farmers. It creates jobs and supports our economic growth. My Irish roots come from my parents and grandparents who are from Co. Kerry. My parents moved to Canada when my mom was pregnant with me in 1987. I am proud to say I’m born in Canada, but made in Ireland! In my spare time I like to play sports, travel, read, explore local restaurants, and spend time with my friends and family.
WESTERN CANADA ROSE – CASSANDRA SAMPSON
I am 27 years-old and was born and raised in Fort McMurray, Alberta. I grew up spending most of my time on my family acreage, snowmobiling in the winters, and swimming in the river in the summers. I moved to Edmonton, AB to complete my Bachelor of Arts degree and have since made Edmonton my home. After my degree I received a diploma as a Physical/Occupational Therapy Assistant, a background that helped me secure my current job in Health & Safety. I feel it is important to live the lifestyle that you promote and so I try to remain as active as possible. I get a lot of my inspiration from my great aunt who is always up for whatever new experience comes her way, be it an 800km bike ride or playing ice hockey. I enjoy traveling and exploring new places. Whether it is staying local and visiting a new neighbourhood or city or venturing to an exotic destination. I love trying out new restaurants and bakeries wherever I go. Delicious food and treats are two of my not so secret weaknesses, or passions depending on how you look at it! My Irish ancestors (Malone – County Fermanagh, Bruce – County Limerick, Ryan – County Kilkenny) came to Newfoundland and Ontario, Canada in the mid-late 1800s.
WICKLOW ROSE – MEGAN SWART
My name is Megan Swart, I’m 18 years old, and a leaving Cert student in Carnew, Co. Wicklow. I was born in South Africa and have lived most of my life in Ireland. I have a huge interest in traveling and experiencing different cultures. In school I have been on the Student Council and this year I was elected Chairperson. I was a Senior Prefect and was also elected as a Meithal Leader. I have received two bronze, one silver, one gold Éach Suntasach Awards, and have also received my bronze Presidents Award. In 2014 I was one of three students from our school that got to travel to Uganda with Self Help Africa. I organized a Charity Awareness Day in my school and invited numerous NGOs, and gave a presentation to the Board of Management on my idea. I have done various fundraisers for the Wicklow Hospice Foundation, mainly Flora Women's Mini Marathon, sky-diving and other fundraisers. At 16 I was offered a job to work with Xposé Magazine Publishing Company for the summer doing research and design. I traveled to New York with my football team and won an international tournament, I also have an All-Ireland Medal.