Cork hopefuls want to knock judges for six in Miss Ireland

Six Cork women are set to feature in this Sunday’s Miss Ireland final, writes EMMA CONNOLLY
Cork hopefuls want to knock judges for six in Miss Ireland

MISS IRELAND FINALISTS: Ciara Danagher, Ciara Mulry from Midleton, Aoife O’Shaughnessy from Farranree, Orla McNabola, Jenny Hesse, Tara Nolan from Cloughduv and Brogan O Sullivan. Picture: Brian McEvoy

CORK has excellent odds of bringing home this year’s Miss Ireland title in this weekend’s competition. The Rebel County boasts six girls in the pageant, which brands itself as being about ‘beauty with a purpose’ with entrants required to support a charity.

All girls were interviewed by a panel including former Miss World Rosanna Davison, in the past week, and in this weekend’s glamorous final, they’ll take to the stage to model key looks, before a select few are picked for an on stage interview where they could be asked anything from their views on Donald Trump to what they thought of the Pope’s visit.

Our entries include the current Miss Cork, Tara Nolan, who automatically qualified for the final. Others made it having been either placed or being a runner-up in Miss Cork in recent years; or by entering a ‘Wild Card’ round in Dublin.

Regardless of how they got to the final, they’re all vying for the same thing: to represent Ireland at the Miss World event in China this December.

Outside of Tara, an Interiors Architecture student, our other hopefuls include a national school teacher, a recruiter, a part time chef and a masters graduate.

Miss Cork Tara Nolan.
Miss Cork Tara Nolan.

Tara Nolan, Miss Cork, aged 19, from Clooghduv, a CIT student

“BEFORE entering Miss Cork, this was something I never even imagined I wanted; but now I’m so close I really want it.”

Tara Nolan, who is about to start her second year of Interior Architecture at CIT, said she plans on “working the hardest I can” at this weekend’s Miss Ireland event.

“The competition is very stiff but I’d love to go to Miss World; if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, and if it’s not, it’s not. But I’m going to give it my all and hopefully the outcome will be the one I want,” she said.

From Cloughduv, the young woman has said things have been ‘manic’ since winning the Miss Cork title last February — but in a good way.

“I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I’ve especially enjoyed the charity work aspect of the title,” she added.

All Miss Ireland entrants must support a charity and Tara is working with Bumbleance, the children’s ambulance. While on J1 in California this summer she raised €1,000 for them, by skydiving.

“I never thought I’d do it — I booked it 10 days earlier and my stomach was constantly in knots but then on the day all I felt was pure excitement. I’m definitely going to do one again.”

Tara, who is in a relationship, said she’s very excited about going into second year at CIT and feels “very lucky” she picked the right course for her.

A keen country music fan, Tara also intends throwing her hat into the ring in the talent section of the competition.

“As well as Miss Ireland there’s a Miss Sports, Miss Talent, and a Miss Congeniality. You have to send a video of yourself performing and then a few are picked on the night to perform on stage,” she said.

Still undecided on her exact performance, Tara said she planned on sticking with an Irish artist such as Gavin James or Imelda May.

Aoife O'Sullivan
Aoife O'Sullivan

Aoife O’Sullivan, aged 23, from Ballinadee, a national school teacher

Aoife O’Sullivan said she was a “quiet, naïve country girl” when she entered Miss Cork three years ago. At the age of 17, having played camogie for Cork at underage level, she tore her cruciate in her knee.

“I did it twice actually and was told I couldn’t play sport any more, which was devastating, so I turned to modelling to fill the void, and that became my hobby,” she said.

She entered Miss Cork three years ago and came third despite describing herself as a “quite, naïve country girl who was thrown into the midst of it all”.

That qualified her for the Miss Ireland competition and now she says she’s “older and wiser” and ready for next weekend’s challenge.

Now aged 23, Aoife, from Ballinadee, near Kinsale, said her Miss Cork win gave her a “huge platform for modelling” and having initially signed with Pulse in Cork city, she moved to Assets and is now with Andrea Roche’s agency in Dublin.

She graduated as a national school teacher from Mary Immaculate in Limerick two years ago and teaches senior infants in St Maries of the Isle in Cork.

“A lot of my modelling work would be with the Today Show in RTÉ which is just around the corner from where I work so I can juggle both,” she says.

She’s very focused on the task at hand next weekend, although with the added focus brings added nerves, she admits.

Her chosen charity to support is Jigsaw in Cork which supports mental health for young people.

Besides modelling, her hobbies are health and fitness. She’s been dating Cork hurler Colm Spillane for the past year and he’ll be supporting her in the audience this weekend.

Maria Murphy
Maria Murphy

Maria Murphy, aged 24, from Ballydaly, near Millstreet, representing Dublin South, works in recruitment

Having a shot at Miss Ireland has always been on 24-year-old Maria Murphy’s bucket list.

“I just decided that it was now or never; now was my time. I don’t know where I’ll even be next year so decided to live in the now and stop putting it off!”

From near Millstreet, but living in Rathfarnam, she graduated with a Masters in Marketing in UCC.

As part of that she interned in an agency in the capital for six months, and was then kept on for a further six.

Fancying a career change, she’s worked in recruitment for the last six months where it’s all about “building relationships.”

“I work mainly in the banking and financial services sector and I love it. There’s a real feelgood factor helping someone who is unemployed find a job; or helping someone who is unhappy to change direction.”

Since securing her place in the final in mid August, she admits it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, “but in the best way possible”.

She saw the competition on Facebook and entered the Wild Card route.

Before she ever knew she was going to make it to the final, she had planned on running a half marathon in the Phoenix Park on September 22 for the Irish Cancer Society and she’s planning on using her platform to further support the cause.

“My dad Timothy was diagnosed with a form of cancer three years ago. It’s treatable but not curable. He’s a trooper and is my inspiration in all of this,” she said.

Dad and mum Josephine, and other family members have their banners all set for this weekend.

Maria, who is single, is fully aware that there are plenty of people who knock the Miss Ireland contest, but it doesn’t bother her.

“It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea; everyone is allowed their opinion and I respect that.”

Aoife O'Shaughnessy
Aoife O'Shaughnessy

Aoife O’Shaughnessy, aged 19, Farranfree, Studying Early Years Education, College of Commerce

It’s been a busy summer for 19-year-old Aoife O’Shaughnessy. Not alone did she sit her Leaving Certificate and move house, somewhere in between she also qualified for a place in the Miss Ireland final.

As a runner up in Miss Cork, she came through the Wild Card selection in Dublin.

Hugely boosted by the experience in Miss Cork, she’s aware that the final will be a ‘bigger deal’ but is set for the challenge.

“It will be nerve-wrecking, but you just have to be prepared for what’s thrown at you,” she said.

She’s actually due to start her college course the day after the final, but fortunately, regardless of the outcome, the College of Commerce have given her a day’s grace.

“I’m really looking forward to starting the course. I’ve always been interested in children and the dream was to be a national school teacher. Then my brother had a baby and I became so close to my nephew Ollie that I decided to change career path. He was my reassurance that I was doing the right thing,” she said. Aoife is a supporter also of the Jack and Jill Foundation.

Aoife and her family recently moved from Donoughmore where they had lived for 10 years to Fairhill, Farranree.

“We moved back to be closer to family and work. It’s convenient for me with college, but I do miss life in the country,” she said.

She’s also enjoying modelling and was signed to Pulse Agency, while also working with Tiger Training Academy.

The ultimate plan for Aoife is to pursue her career, and continue her childcare studies to UCC.

Lucy Butler
Lucy Butler

Lucy Butler, aged 23, from Tipperary, living in Douglas, representing Wexford, has a Masters graduate in Electronic Business

Lucy Butler’s route to the Miss Ireland competition was a little ‘around the houses’ but her focus was very clear: to surprise her granny on her 80th birthday by wearing the Miss Wexford sash.

From Fethard, Tipperary, she’s lived in Douglas for the past five years while she studied in University College Cork, first graduating with a degree in Commerce and then a masters in Electronic Business.

As a runner up in Miss Cork, she opted to wear the Miss Wexford sash, as a surprise for granny Nellie Ryan who is from the Model County and will be cheering her on next weekend.

Lucy’s using her platform to raise money for Cork ARC through a cervical cancer awareness campaign called “LE CHEILE.”

She hosted a fundraiser in the Voodoo Rooms last Friday to promote the ‘Pearl of Wisdom’ campaign, the emblem for Cervical Cancer prevention.

“We distributed the ‘Pearl of Wisdom’ packs for everyone to wear and share the pearl, in solidarity with those affected by cervical cancer.

“The ‘Pearl of Wisdom’ pack also contains resources around cervical health. All money raised will go to the outstanding Cork ARC cancer support house.”

The campaign is primarily in memory of her aunt.

“My aunt Gemma, who lived in Douglas, lost her life to cervical cancer at the age of 37. She availed of the services of ARC and our family benefited from their bereavement services and we were very grateful for that.

“They are only 8% government funded and rely heavily on fund-raising. As the competition is all about ‘beauty with a purpose’, I couldn’t think of a better way to give back.”

A former basketballer and footballer who captained her minor football team to a county final, she’s in a three year relationship with former Cork footballer, Donal Og Hodnett from Skibbereen.

And to those who criticise the competition, she says that far from being outdated, it’s empowering: “Yes, there is a beauty aspect to it, but we’ve all had to launch campaigns so the drive is all about giving back: to charities and to the community.”

Ciara Mulry
Ciara Mulry

Ciara Mulry, aged 22, from Saleen Midleton, Business Management student, CIT

Thinking on her feet shouldn’t be a problem for Ciara Mulry should she hopefully make it to the interview stage of the Miss Ireland final. The part time chef in the Midleton Park Hotel has responsibility for starters and is well used to juggling orders, and thinking ahead.

A fourth year student of Business Management at CIT, she is also used to breaking boundaries as the only female in the hotel’s kitchen.

“I sort of fell into it — my dad was the catering manager at the Mercy Hospital and I worked there and then an opening came up at the Midleton Park. I work full time there during the summer, and at weekends during the college year. I love it — but it’s put 20 years on me!”

Ciara entered Miss Cork last year and didn’t place; but this year she came third and made it through the ‘Wild Card’ round.

“I wouldn’t have had that much confidence so my family and friends encouraged me to enter; and as it was such a positive experience I tried again this year. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be in Miss Ireland — it’s all been a bit of a whirlwind.”

Among the charities she’s supporting is Midleton-based Brighter Communities which delivers programmes in Africa. Ciara volunteered with them and was particularly proud to have been involved in educating girls on menstrual health.

“It’s not something that is spoken about there and girls have no knowledge about it until it happens,” she said.

Ciara lives at home with mum and dad Aine and Michael and along with boyfriend Aidan Beausang said they’d been very supportive. Winning Miss Ireland, she said, would be amazing and she’d use the platform to encourage women to further their education and not to be intimidated by male-dominated sectors.

Interestingly, Ciara has been a vegetarian for the past 10 years, but is told by her colleagues she makes the best chilli in the hotel: “I suppose I’m just good at smell — but I would always get a second opinion!”

She only stopped eating meat in first year after a friend and herself had a bet to see who could last the longest without it.

“My mum travelled a lot when she was younger so we were used to a wide range of food and after a while I didn’t miss it and never went back, although, that reminds me, my friend never paid up!”

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