A YOUNG woman had an extra special reason to celebrate her 25th birthday, as just three days earlier she was announced this year’s Cork Rose.
Erinn O’Connell, from Aghabullogue, was announced as our entry in this year’s Rose of Tralee on Saturday night, and she says “as cliched as it sounds, it came as a total shock”.
Erinn graduated last June in Children’s and General Integrated Nursing from UCC and now works in CUH.
“I love my job and get great satisfaction from it. Yes, it can be challenging working on the front line but you deal with what’s in front of you and deliver the best care you can in an holistic manner,” she said.
She’s the youngest of four siblings, Colm, Niamh, Eoin and Maeve, by eight years, making her, she says, ‘the baby’ of the family. Her sisters were there on the night to hear her name called as well as dad Jack; Mum Mary was on holiday in Portugal but kept in touch by phone.
Erinn decided to put her name forward for the competition in March after seeing lots of positive social media posts about it and having heard from two cousins of hers who previously entered that it was a worthwhile experience.
“I decided to take myself out of my comfort zone and go for it. I would have always watched the competition on TV growing up and when I was a little girl I was at the homecoming of the 1999 Rose Geraldine O’Grady and would have seen her looking like a princess.
“It’s always something that’s appealed to me — I like the ethos of it: women supporting women, and I think the event is something that helps women shine.”
Erinn performed Imelda May’s Big Bad Handsome Man as her ‘party piece’. She says there’s a tradition of singing in her family, stemming from her grandfather Joe Healy who was involved in the Feis Maitiu.
“I’d normally sing Irish ballads but I wanted something upbeat so I went for Imelda May,” the fan of Kodaline said, having seen them in the Marquee last week.
As well as music, Erinn is a keen sports woman, playing camogie for her native Aghabullogue while also coaching underage camogie.
“When I was growing up it was a very small club, but in 2012 we won the intermediate county title which gave us a huge boost. We’ve made huge investments in the underage structure with 15 to 20 involved now at every age level.”
She’s passionate about young people, especially girls, getting involved in sports.
“I think it gives people great structure and purpose. I remember going training and having to get my homework done first; it’s also a great way to mingle and, regardless, everyone is equal on the pitch.”
Currently living in Glasheen, she is training two to three nights a week as well as working 12 hour nursing shifts. Erinn is in a relationship with Mark O’Flynn, a mechanical engineer who works in Eli Lilly in Dunderrow, and they’ve been together for seven years.
“He’s from five miles from where I’m from and supported me to enter and is fully behind this,” said Erinn.
Some 45 girls took part in this year’s Cork competition and organisers Denis Griffin and Will Nolan, both former festival escorts, said the standard was higher than ever.
Erinn said: “Again, I know it sounds clichéd but each of the 45 girls had their own qualities — the process really brought the best out of everyone and helped showcase everyone’s talents.
“The competition really helps everyone to shine. I’ve made really good friends from this already even though we’ve only been together three months.
“I’m really honoured, excited and privileged to be representing such a fabulous bunch of girls — they’re all amazing.”
Next up for our Cork Rose, it’s straight back to work while ‘sussing out the logistics’ of what her new title means in the whirlwind aftermath of the win.
On the night, she wore a full length black gown which she borrowed from a friend.
Usually either in her work uniform or sports gear, the ‘style’ side of the event is, she says, an ‘added bonus.’
“To anyone thinking of taking part, my advice is to 100% go for it. I’ve only positive things to say — it’s been amazing. I’m so looking forward to Tralee — this has been a great early birthday present.”
This year’s Rose of Tralee runs from August 17 to 21. For more see www.roseoftralee.ie/
The first night of the RTÉ Rose TV Show will be broadcast live from the RTÉ Dome, on Monday August 20, followed on Tuesday, August 21, by the second show.