THE newly crowned Cork Rose, Kate Shaughnessy, from Ballincollig, was always a budding Rose.
“My family had a mobile home outside Tralee,” says Kate, 25.
“I was always there with my parents, and I had a ‘rose’ book to collect the autographs of the Roses when they came to town. I was fascinated by them.”
Kate bloomed to become a Rose herself.
“When my name as the Cork Rose was announced on Saturday night, it was one of those wow! moments,” she says. “I’m still overwhelmed; it’s like a dream come true!”
Leading up to the Rose selection, Kate got into the mood in her workplace, Norwood Grange Care Home, where she works as care co-ordinator.
“We had afternoon tea and all 30 residents dressed up, wearing their own sash saying where they were from,” says Kate.
“After tea, all the families joined us; it was a very special afternoon.”
The residents of Norwood Grange stayed up late on Saturday night to hear the wonderful news that Kate was selected as the Cork Rose 2023.
“Norwood Grange was my first stop on Sunday morning after the Cork Rose selection, there were lots of tears and hugs,” says Kate.
It brought a lot of joy to Norwood, and I was still on a complete high.
Kate, who has two brothers and one sister, always wanted to work in the caring profession.
“I didn’t get enough points for nursing in my Leaving Cert,” she says.
“So, I did a pre-nursing course for one year in the College of Commerce. That was in 2016. After that I got into UCC, studying social science for three years. I loved college life, and I made great friends there.
“During my final year, the end of Covid, I worked part-time in Ballincollig Community Nursing Unit. I became full-time and spent five years working there. I loved it.”
Kate, Activity Coordinator, made sure the residents’ enjoyed interaction with others during Covid and won a special recognition award from Mowlam Healthcare for her outstanding efforts keeping residents engaged.
“I did a lot of social and activity care during Covid, making videos, organising window visits, and organising family visits when visits were restricted. There were 100 residents, so it was a lot of work.”
The residents appreciated Kate’s caring.
“I was nominated for the award by the residents and their families,” she says.
“I love my work and Ballincollig Community Nursing Unit was a great place to work. I moved to Norwood Grange last June and they sponsored me to go into the Cork selection for the Rose of Tralee.
The care home is small with a family feel to it, the same staff are there for years. My main job is ensuring the residents’ wellbeing.
"I run activity programmes and do some of the activities myself. We like playing bingo and clients participate in imagination gym training, which is guided meditation for dementia, and it is very beneficial for dementia patients.”
The residents of Norwood Grange Care Home bunched together to cheer Kate on.
“There was a huge build-up to the selection night,” she says.
“There were lots of events leading up to it. The Cork Rose Tour was really fun, we went to the greyhound track and the Anglers Rest. Meeting the other girls was great and we were very well looked after.”
Kate looked a million dollars for the special once-in-a-lifetime occasion.
“My dress was second hand!” she says. “I had my hair done in Salon 28 in Killumney, and my make-up in Bijox, Ballincollig.”
Kate hasanother huge supporter by her side, boyfriend Michael.
“Michael and I have been together for eight years,” she says. “We met when I was 17 and Michael was 18, and we’ve been together ever since. We live together in Ovens. Michael is a gentleman.”
Kate’s parents, Niamh and John, were also teenage sweethearts.
“They met at the Rose of Tralee when they were 15,” says Kate.
“I lived in Ballincollig all my life until my parents sold their house and moved back to Tralee in November, 2021.”
They won’t have far to go to support their daughter when she represents Cork in the Rose of Tralee.
“The host on Saturday night, Ollie, said it was very presumptuous of my parents to move to Tralee!”
How did Kate feel being named the Cork Rose?
“I was completely stunned,” she admits.
“There were tears in my eyes straight away. Mum and Dad came up on the stage. They were completely shocked but very proud. Orla and Harry, the owners of Norwood Grange, were there and other people from the home too, as well as my family who were all delighted. My sister, Ellen, 15, was very excited.”
What does it take to be a Rose?
“I think you have to be confident and be able to speak in public, and the most important thing is to represent your county well. There are numerous events leading up to the Rose of Tralee in August, the Rose Tour is probably the highlight, when all the girls from the counties of Ireland and countries abroad take to the road. I’m looking forward to re-visiting my secondary school, Colaiste Choilm, and my primary school, Scoil Barra.”
Kate is proud to represent the Rebel County.
“I hope to do Cork proud, as well as Norwood Grange Care Home and my family. I’ve made great friends with the girls in the Cork Rose selection, and we’ll stay in touch.”
Granny Shaughnessy is well in touch with her granddaughter who is blooming for Cork.
“My granny, Bernie, was the first person to ring me Sunday morning,” says Kate.
She was blown away and said her phone hadn’t stopped ringing!
No doubt carer Kate will do her county proud.
“I was the Belle of Ballincollig in 2018,” says Kate.
She’s used to the limelight?
“I’m used to the sash!”
Cork held the Rose of Tralee title on three occasions during the history of the festival: Josie Ruane 1961, Denise Murphy O’Sullivan, 1991, Geraldine O’Grady Finn, 1999. Will 2023 be our year again?
OUTGOING CORK ROSE
Jenny Byrne ended her stint as Cork Rose last Saturday when she handed over the sash to Kate Shaugnessy.
“The whole year was a bit of a whirlwind,” says the Douglas native.
“It was an incredible year all round. I was so lucky to be part of it. The Rose tour travelled all around Ireland, coming home here to Cork and showing all the Roses my beautiful county stands out as one of the high-lights.
“It was a great opportunity to showcase what Cork had to offer; We had a gala dinner with family and friends in the Carrigaline Court Hotel, finishing the next day, Friday, on a high in Tralee.”
Jenny was popular.
“All of the support in Cork was genuinely unbelievable,” says Jenny.
“I really didn’t know the gravity of being the Cork Rose. Cork businesses were unrivalled during the lead-up to the festival.
All my outfits were sponsored, and it was great to go around all the Cork shops and talk to the owners and the people who worked there.”
Jenny spent three months in Cambodia after the Rose of Tralee festival, conducting research for her PhD. She is a field researcher specialising in employment opportunities for women with disabilities.
“I heard the most incredible stories,” says Jenny.
“Some of the women in Cambodia were not only working to improve their own lives, but the lives of their entire communities. It was great to talk to Irish NGOs and in my capacity as Cork rose; it was great to connect with the Irish diaspora who were really interested in my role as Cork rose.”
2022 was a memorable year for Jenny.
“Feeling the support of everyone was really special,” she says.
From family, friends, to the local community, there are no words to describe it. I am so proud to be from Cork and I was so lucky to be on the international stage.
I made so many friends with the other Roses, that’s one of the reasons I did it. Being the Cork rose was the best experience of my life.
“I’m looking forward to taking Kate through the motions and seeing how the experience evolves - no doubt she will make friends from people all over the world.”
The Rose of Tralee International Festival 2023 returns to Tralee Co. Kerry from August 18 to 22.
* Next week as part of our interviews with 20 women to mark the 20th anniversary of WoW!, we interview Deputy Holly Cairns, leader of the Social Democrats.