Daithi O Se photographed with this year's Rose of Tralee
Nicola McEvoy, Luxembourg

Ireland’s most popular program year after year drew to a conclusion last night.

No, it wasn’t the conclusion of a soap opera or a final debate for political office or a major football game.
It was the selection of the 2012 Rose of Tralee, the annual contest to find that special young woman from somewhere in the world, who best embodied the Irish spirit.

The winner, Rose McEvoy, is based in Luxembourg and when is the last time that country ever had a winner in a major competition of any kind?

One in three Irish people will have watched all or some part of the selection process for an event that runs live for two nights on national television and continues to amaze as to why so many watch.

It is not a beauty contest, there are no bikinis or fake body tans to show off.

None of the contestants are in the least famous, they are ordinary girls from major Irish cities and from all over the world.

This is the Irish diaspora come alive, with talented young women on stage and proud parents and Irish relatives all watching as well as a nation.

They call the Melbourne Cup the horse race that stops a nation, well the Rose of Tralee does the same for Ireland as millions gather to see the contestants on TV.

They are not particularly talented performers. Case in point, the Ottawa Rose this year wanted to milk a cow to show what she was best at.

They brought the cow into the studio but she proved too tough to handle so the segment was abandoned at the last minute -- not before the cow had deposited some droppings on the stage.

Where else would it happen?

I was watching some of it via internet (Thank you RTE) yesterday and it was live television at its best.
The Tyrone Rose decided she wanted to show off her Irish dancing, but in a floor-sweeping long dress that had everyone worried she’d trip over.

The South Australia Rose decided to play a card trick on presenter Daithi O Se (Our regular columnist) but got the card wrong. It was the six of diamonds, not the nine, so she accused O Se of thinking upside down.

Next up, the London Rose played a mean tin whistle which had the audience clapping and stomping but she was no James Galway.

The New York Rose Annemarie Lynch blasted out a version of Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ that rocked the dome in Tralee where the contest was being held.

The contest had that wonderful and magic blend of endearing amateurism and vulnerability that appeals to the masses.

It is the dream of generations of Irish mothers and fathers at home and abroad that some day their daughter will represent their city in the Rose of Tralee.

As the mother of the Cork Rose remarked last night, “We must have done something right,” as she viewed her vivacious daughter on stage.

What could be better than that for a parent?