Some of the Roses competing this year
I’ve been away a bit this summer to places like Portugal where the ‘Irish pub’ seems to be some kind of a tourist attraction.

From the outside you’d say this place looks Irish with a lot of green and tricolours flying high. To be fair they would show all the GAA matches during the summer and have RTÉ television and radio playing in the background. A good bit less Irish than the pub down the road, but still a lot more like the Irish pubs in other places I’ve been in Europe.

As you might remember we were away on honeymoon up around the Baltics, where they too have their share of Irish Pubs. One night when we were on the bus on our way back to the ship the guy sitting behind me who knew I was Irish tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to a green neon shamrock flashing on a wall in the middle of a dangerous looking part of the city, I heard later that it wasn't the best part to hang out in, but that may not be true either!

By this shamrock, an arrow pointed down towards a pub, Molly’s Island! I made it my business the following day to go in and it seemed to be a nice enough spot but I didn’t spend long there.

Tallinn in Estonia is a beautiful city, one of the nicest I’ve ever seen. You certainly know you’re in Tallinn when you are in the city centre, but right in the middle of all this Estonian culture and heritage is an Irish pub called The Shamrock.

Again all the photos and stuff on the walls would suggest that is was an Irish place, but when you chat to the people behind the bar you can see it’s all down to marketing. Some of the bar staff even speak of ‘the Irish they have in them’ and maybe they were telling the truth. In my opinion if their grandmothers were bitten by an Irish wolfhound they’d have a closer connection with Ireland!

In America, the Irish Bars were where the real Irish always hung out. Where new arrivals went to get their first start and this was the same in England and Australia. Where you would go to the news from home; who was dead and who got sent off in the West Kerry final. This has always been the heart of the Irish Community.

Many of the Roses at this year’s Rose of Tralee, like every other year, have come through a selection in association with an Irish Bar; in fact it’s the support for these bars that keeps the funding going. They always know how important the Rose of Tralee is and helps to tie the Irish Community together globally.

The Irish American and Rose of Tralee communities showed their strength this year when the powers that be took Adrienne Hussey, Texas Rose 2010, from us. Both communities came together in sadness and showed what a powerful unit us Irish can be. She will be remembered at this year’s festival by two of her close friends, Philadelphia Rose Beth Spellman and Texas Rose Kelly Gaetano. They are sad and excited to share their stories with us.

The Rose of Tralee is an exciting time for all the Roses, their families and friends. The people of Tralee really get behind it every year. There really is no other festival like it in the world. As the host it’s a bit different, very exciting but a lot of work. This is probably one of the busiest weeks in the year. It would be very easy to get carried away with the thing, but the 6 hours of live TV puts me in my place. In saying that, when they are singing the last chorus my party will be just beginning. For all who came it’s a marathon and not a sprint!

The question everybody always asks me is who is going to win and every year I tell them 'Tokyo', and they always thank me. By the time they realize there has never been a Tokyo Rose they are gone well out the door.

Don’t forget you can watch the show live on RTEplayer at at 8pm Irish time Monday, August 20 and Tuesday, August 21.